October is Mental Health Awareness Month – an ideal time to gain understanding of your unique genetic makeup
Johannesburg, 11 October21: Globally, mental health is being challenged like never before by COVID-19.1a Prior to the pandemic, global statistics on mental health conditions were already bleak and have only been worsened.1b The global economy loses more than US$ 1 trillion per year due to depression and anxiety, with depression – a leading cause of disability — affecting 264 million people. Around half of all mental health conditions start by age 14.1c
The good news for people who have a family history of mental illness, or who are suffering from mental illness themselves, is that genetic testing can empower them to take control of their health. It does this by equipping people with the information they need about lifestyle, supplement and nutritional interventions that help to prevent genetic-related mental health concerns.
“Genetic testing for variants in genes that are associated with mental health, including risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance abuse, cognitive decline, depression, anxiety and mood disorders, has enabled the development of personalised medicine,” says Dr Danny Meyersfeld, founder and CEO of DNAlysis Biotechnology, one of South Africa’s premier genetic testing laboratories. “Based on each individual’s unique genetic makeup, personalised medicine is allowing mental healthcare specialists to shift their emphasis from reaction to prevention by predicting vulnerability to disease.”
Historically, traditional medicine has had limited diagnostic capabilities when it comes to mental health. Doctors have been forced to take a largely trial-and-error approach to prescribing medications based on their assessment of the patient. “With the benefit of a genetic test, the doctor can consider the diagnosis in the context of genetic predispositions, helping them to make the correct diagnosis sooner,” says Dr Meyersfeld. “In addition, when it comes to the prescription of medication, understanding how a person is likely to respond to a particular drug based on an analysis of their genes can help doctors to quickly determine the most suitable medication and dosage.”
Matching patients with effective treatment
“No two human beings are alike,” says Dr Suntheren Pillay, a psychiatrist at Life Entabeni Hospital in Durban. “That’s why every person experiences illness differently, and their response to medication is different. In combination with clinical acumen, genetic testing not only enables doctors to prescribe the right medicine for the right person at the right time, but also guides decisions for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders. For the patient it can be life changing,” says Dr Pillay. “Our role is to make people better. By giving doctors insights into the patient’s specific needs and risks, we can improve their quality of life, prescribe the correct medication, reduce the side effects of medication, enable them to return to their families and work, and save them money spent on managing prolonged illness.”
DNAlysis, the first company in South Africa to offer DNA Mind, is still the only company with a test that delivers insights into underlying risk factors for mental health. In combination with the company’s Medcheck screening, a test that provides insights into patients’ responsiveness to different medications and the likelihood of side effects and treatment failure, the result is personalised approach to medicine that produces better results for the individual.
“The tests are cost effective, and I have great confidence in DNAlysis’s laboratory and scientific support team,” says Dr Pillay. “All my patients take the test because it accelerates their healing.”
“Only practitioners well-versed in genomics are able to accurately interpret the reports that are produced based on the screening tests,” says Dr Meyersfeld. “All of the insights and risk factors identified empower the patient and their healthcare provider to take the necessary steps to improve health outcomes.”
Speak to your healthcare practitioner about how DNA Mind and Medcheck can provide personalised diet, lifestyle and nutraceutical recommendations, as well as valuable diagnostic insights, to help you better understand your risk and best manage your mental health.
You can also visit https://dnalysis.co.za to find an accredited practitioner or buy a DNA test online. A practitioner from the DNAlysis accredited network will guide you through the process.
1. The Impact Of Covid-19 on Global Mental Health: A Brief 2020. United For Global Mental Health. [8 Oct 2021]. Available from: https://unitedgmh.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/The%2BImpact%2BOf%2BCovid-19%2BOn%2BGlobal%2BMental%2BHealth%2BReport.pdf