HEALTHY BITE | Mental Health Awareness

Welcome to another Healthy Bite. Well, this week is a big week because it is focussed on mental health. We are proud to be a Partner for Mind Medicine Australia’s International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness, taking place online from 19-20 November 2021. This is such an important initiative.

Join me as I talk about mental health, antidepressants and the option of psychedelic therapies in Australia.

Mental Health Awareness

Trip of Compassion

Well, this week is a big week because it is focussed on mental health. Down in Melbourne and available online is an International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness

Now, this has been put on by Mind Medicine Australia and I first came into contact with Mind Medicine Australia when I saw a rather compelling documentary, which I’d recommend you have a look at called Trip of Compassion. It’s an Israeli documentary that followed the MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders.

Now, the Trip of Compassion follows three particular cases, and they are really interesting cases. The first one was a first responder, an ambulance driver who was the first responder at a bomb blast, which was the scene of carnage and of course, was incredibly traumatic. 

The second case that’s followed in the film is one of a young woman who was travelling, I think in South America and was kidnapped, felt her life was threatened, was held as kidnapped for about a week, and then escaped. 

The scars that left her were quite profound and the third case was one of sexual abuse. This covered quite a few areas, which sadly many people have experienced, and it leaves them with lifelong scars of post-traumatic stress.

That was my introduction to Mind Medicine Australia, and I actually was at the time, also president of the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, and felt that there was a great synergy there between ACNEM and that college and what Mind Medicine Australia was doing. 

International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness

This summit is on for these two days coming up now on the 19th and 20th of November and so many of the resources from that summit will be available on the Mind Medicine site. If you’re listening to this after that event, well, this is about consciousness-raising as well, about making you aware of what this is all about.

I thought I might share with you this short two minutes, if you’re watching this on YouTube, it’s a YouTube clip, but if you’re listening to it, it’s equally compelling.

Video: “Did you know that over 45% of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime? That’s nearly half of us!

“I can’t sleep.” “I don’t want to carry on.” “Everything feels like flat and gray.” “I feel ashamed.”. 

Mental ill-health devastates lives and families and cost Australians around $60 billion a year. Research and treatment expenses continue to rise, yet rates of mental illness indicate that we’re losing the battle. New approaches are urgently needed to address this immense suffering and cost.

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is currently being trialled worldwide. And has demonstrated remarkable promise in treating depression, anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder, with new trials underway for treatment of dementia and anorexia. The treatment combines a short programme of psychotherapy with just a few medicinal doses of psilocybin or MDMA.

In the 1950s and 60s, psychedelic treatments had a major impact on psychiatry, and many considered it the next big thing in mental health treatment. But for political reasons, the Nixon administration criminalised the use of psychedelics and effectively stopped all research.

That research has finally begun again. With proper clinical support, psychedelic treatments are safe and frequently lead to a mission after only a short program, and even where current treatments have failed.

Here at Mind Medicine Australia, we believe everyone should have access to the best treatments for mental illness. Subject to forthcoming clinical trial results, we will seek to establish best practise in regulated psychedelic-assisted treatment. Mind Medicine Australia is wholly focussed on the clinical application of psychedelic medicines. 

We’re preparing for change by developing therapist training, ethical guidelines, a Centre of Excellence in psychedelic medicine, educational material and events, and supporting clinical research. We’re a small organisation doing big things, and we need your support. Please share this video and visit our website to support us and get involved.”

Dr Ron Ehrlich: Well, I was very happy to support that initiative and address cause you may have heard a podcast a few weeks or months ago with Dr Martin Whitely, who wrote that rather confronting book, which if you know mental health is an issue, this is for any of you or your families or friends. This is a book that is worth reading. 

Particularly if you read it in its digital form because of the hyperlinks to the resources, there are over 60 pages of references and links to various things. It’s a beautifully written and very important book called Overprescribing Madness: What’s Driving the Current Mental Health Problems in Australia

I think Martin raised some very important issues here, and that is the description of medication for protracted mental health issues.  Look, it has some place, there’s no question about that, but there are some really serious issues. And this is a continuation of that theme to address causes. 

And it’s interesting from that video that you hear that short clip that you just heard about how politics plays into health. I think this is a story that is very easy to miss but difficult to ignore once you become aware of it. 

4Ps – Profit, Patents, Politics and Public Health

Sadly, in our health system, whether we’re talking about chronic disease management, whether we’re talking about mental health, physical health, whether we are talking even about the pandemic I have identified. I think 4Ps that seem to drive our approach in many of our approaches to health in our system — and that is Profit, it’s a big factor. Patents play a big role. Politics is huge. And somewhere along the line there, Public health does come into it.

But if you think that so much of what goes on in health care is purely and simply about public health. Well, I think you’re missing a very important point. This brings us back to the psychedelics and the fact that this was outlawed so many years ago, the war on drugs, we’ve addressed in other podcasts and like the war on poverty, the war on hunger, you know, these kinds of wars don’t seem to really do what they set out to do. 

War on Drugs

The war on drugs, in general, has been an abject failure. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to judges, police officers, heads of police departments, whether that’s the Australian Federal Police or undercover police. I’ve had patients of both departments. I’ve had people of both departments as patients, and all of them have acknowledged that this is, its window dressing what we’re doing.

We might be getting 5% of the imported drugs. The war on drugs just simply isn’t working and it’s filling our jails and our courts and taking up incredible resources in our society. Unfortunately, it’s not really working, and nor will it ever work. 

Actually, I believe decriminalising and regulating what has been described as illegal drugs, be that cannabis, we’ve done some programme on medicinal cannabis and its uses, but here we’re talking about psychedelics, MDMA, psilocybin mushrooms or psilocybin drugs, which have tremendous potential to address the causes of protracted mental health issues. 

Mind Medicine Australia

In this summit, which is on the 19th and 20th of November. If you’re listening to this afterwards, go to the Mind Medicine Australia site to look more into this. It covers the neuroscience of these new treatments, the psychedelics, consciousness, and belief changes from the nature of reality, therapeutic and ethical implications. It talks about the whole history. 

I think we have so much to learn from the past, and I’ve often said this in terms of nutrition. You know, the nutritional lessons we have to learn from our journey as a species are things that should inform us if we’re ever in doubt about what we should be eating.

Well, these kinds of rituals that have been a part of our life throughout the ages, we’ve had explorations. People have always been drawn to drugs throughout human history for varying reasons, and one of those reasons is an altered state of consciousness, an ability to see more clearly what the problems are.

I thought it was very interesting when we did an initial podcast with Tania de Jong, who is the CEO of Mind Medicine Australia, she said something that I thought was really profound, and that was it seems that these kinds of psychedelics have an effect on our default mode network, which is that part of our brain, which connects memory, emotions are our regulatory parts of our brain. 

It’s a way of opening up the brain’s ability to communicate with all of those different parts. The effect of these psychedelics is on the default mode network, which opens, literally opens our minds.

Whenever you’ve had a traumatic experience, and one of the things that define post-traumatic stress disorder is these recurring nightmares, which may occur related to the event, which caused the trauma, or the event which caused the trauma. 

This is about thoughts just going round and round in our heads without being properly processed and stored and emotionally dealt with and that is what happens when you have a traumatic experience, and that is one of the things which defines post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Mental Health

Now, interestingly, psychedelics work on the default mode network, which opens up pathways within the brain, which allows you to process those problems, those conditions. Many people who have engaged in this therapy describe it as one of the five most amazing experiences of their lives in a positive sense. 

I think when we’re talking about mental health, very few people would reflect on how they are managing their mental health through medications, which interestingly, another thing that was said in one of our many podcasts is that these kinds of antidepressants actually suppress the default mode network, dull our senses down.

This is a very different approach. This is about addressing and causes and resolving issues that can be long, protracted, frustrating, and go on for a lifetime. And as that video shared with you, mental health is a huge and growing problem in our society and arguably the last 20 months of the pandemic and lockdowns and social isolation have exacerbated many of those issues.

I would encourage you to visit the Mind Medicine Australia site. If you’re listening to this and you want to attend the conference online with some amazing speakers, really world leaders in this field, the International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness is going on in Australia online as we speak. So get on board and have a listen to that or visit the Mind medicine site to explore this subject further. I hope this finds you well. Until next time.


This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.