Skip to main content

Mental Health

mental health
© Thinkstock

Mental health problems are common. In the United States, they affect about one-fourth of adults in any given year and nearly half of adults at some time during their lives.

According to the World Health Organization, mental illnesses account for more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses. Anxiety and mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, are the most common mental health problems.

Researchers are investigating complementary and integrative health approaches for a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

  • Some complementary health approaches, such as relaxation techniques and music, may help to relieve anxiety during stressful situations like medical procedures. Less is known about whether complementary health approaches can help to manage anxiety disorders.
  • There is some evidence that acupuncture, music therapy, and yoga may help with depression. Results of some studies suggest that St. John’s wort may have an effect on mild to moderate major depressive disorder (MDD) for a limited number of patients, similar to standard antidepressants, but the evidence is far from definitive. St. John’s wort, however, can interact in dangerous, sometimes life-threatening ways with a variety of medicines. It’s uncertain whether omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is useful for depression. Current research does not support the use of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) or inositol for the treatment of depression.
  • For SAD, a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, there is some evidence that light therapy may be useful as a preventive treatment for people with a history of SAD. Research shows that a type of cognitive behavioral therapy adapted for use with SAD patients helps to relieve symptoms, and its effects may continue into subsequent winters, even without additional sessions with a therapist. It’s unclear whether vitamin D supplementation can help to relieve SAD symptoms. Very little research has been done on dietary supplements other than vitamin D for SAD.

If you feel you may have a mental health problem, talk to a health care provider.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226

Telecommunications relay service (TRS): 7-1-1

Website: https://nccih.nih.gov/

Email: info@nccih.nih.gov (link sends email)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

The National Institute of Mental Health’s mission is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-866-615-6464

Website: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

Email: nimhinfo@nih.gov (link sends email)

Know the Science

NCCIH and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide tools to help you understand the basics and terminology of scientific research so you can make well-informed decisions about your health. Know the Science features a variety of materials, including interactive modules, quizzes, and videos, as well as links to informative content from Federal resources designed to help consumers make sense of health information.

Explaining How Research Works (NIH)

Know the Science: 9 Questions To Help You Make Sense of Health Research

Understanding Clinical Studies (NIH)

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Website: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: January 2020