Mental Health Disorders in Children & Adolescents

According to a recent national survey of the mental health and wellbeing of Australian children and adolescents, approximately 278,000 Australian children aged between 4 and 17 struggle with clinical symptoms of ANXIETY(2015)

The Second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (Young Minds Matter)

Mental health and many common mental illnesses are influenced by social, economic, and physical environmental factors. For children, loving, responsive and stable relationships with a caring adult help build secure attachment between child and caregiver. This is essential for healthy social and emotional development. Secure attachment to the primary caregiver in the early years helps to protect against anxiety and boosts the ability to cope with stressors (WHO 2014).

Mental health problems in childhood can have a substantial impact on wellbeing. In addition, there is strong evidence that mental disorders in childhood and adolescence predict mental illness in adulthood (WHO 2014; Lahey 2015; NMHC 2019).

  • In 2015, for children aged 5–14, 3 of the 5 leading causes of disease were mental disorders
  • anxiety disorders ranked second
  • depressive disorders third
  • conduct disorders fourth (AIHW Burden of Disease database).
  • For boys and girls aged 5–14, anxiety disorders were the second leading cause of total burden.
  • Conduct disorders were the third leading cause of total burden for boys while depressive disorders were the third leading cause for girls (AIHW 2019).

Children miss more school – children with depression miss almost twice as much as those with anxiety disorder 14 days compared to 6 days and ADHD with 4 days average in 12 months

Average NAPLAN test scores were lower for students with mental disorders, compared to those with no mental disorder (Goodsell et al. 2017).

ADHD in Australia




  • In ADHD dopamine and norepinephrine are not working as they should
  • Other mental health conditions rely on neurotransmitters such as serotonin
  • Neurotransmitters are constantly created within our brain & our gut
  • Neurotransmitters are synthesised from nutrients – amino acids, vitamins & minerals
  • Deficiencies in building blocks for neurotransmitters cause cognitive problems
  • Advances in neuroscience and epigenetics has made us aware of the impact of nutrients on gene expression
  • In MRI scans, altered blood flow to certain areas of the brains of people with ADHD, compared to those without, can be seen. A decrease in blood flow indicates decreased brain activity in that area. There is a decrease in blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex in people with ADHD.
  • The pre-frontal cortex is the area of the brain that is responsible for executive functions such as planning, organising, paying attention, memory, making choices between right and wrong, predicting the probable outcomes of actions or events as well as regulating short-term and long-term decision making.

Bearing in mind all of the above, it becomes clear why people with ADHD have the challenges they do.

Natural Treatment of ADHD

A complete & thorough consultation must be taken of the child which covers sleep, diet, speech and other developmental areas. Every body system must be covered: GIT, nervous, immune, endocrine etc.. questions must be asked about past medical history, family history, mood, sensitivities, allergies and fine/gross motor skills

1.Diagnosis of any food allergy, Pyrrole disorder, gut disorder/imbalance, heavy metal toxicity, mineral and vitamin deficiency, blood glucose imbalances, yeast/mould issues, undiagnosed conditions eg hyperthyroidism, other mental health disorders

2.Holistic testing might involve HTMA, blood, stool, saliva, hair

3.Dietary changes: usually increasing protein with each meal, increasing mineral rich foods like magnesium, zinc, iron and omega 3 fatty acids. Reducing sugar, junk food and empty calories. Avoidance of all preservatives, colourings and flavourings.

4.Supporting gut health with diet, supplements and pro/prebiotics

5.Supplements usually include high dose magnesium, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, L-theanine & NAC

6.Reducing and treating the side effects of medications like Ritalin which often include insomnia, lack of appetite and anxiety

Anxiety and Pyrrole Disorder

A common feature of many behavioral and emotional disorders is Pyroluria, an inborn error of pyrrole chemistry which results in a dramatic deficiency of zinc and Vitamin B-6.   Common symptoms include explosive temper, emotional mood swings, poor short-term memory, and frequent infections. The decisive laboratory test is analysis for pyrrole levels in urine.  Treatment centres on normalizing blood levels of B-6 and zinc.

It is well known that mental illnesses such as ADD, ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder and aggressive/violent behaviours (Conduct disorders) are largely due to imbalances in brain chemistry. A common feature of these disorders according to Dr. Bill Walsh is pyroluria which is caused by the body over producing a product called HPL (hydroxyhemopyrrolin2-one) during red blood cell (haemoglobin) production or from increased breakdown of red blood cells.  It is also thought to be related to leaky gut allowing HPL to renter the circulation.

HPL actually binds to B6 and Zinc and they are then eliminated in the urine. Without B6 and zinc it is impossible for our bodies to make important neurotransmitters like serotonin. It can also affect hormone production and vital body systems. It can cause the loss of Omega 6 fatty acids so some practitioners will recommend Omega 6 oil supplementation.

The effect of pyroluria can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the extent of the imbalance. There are strong genetic links, but evidence also shows that raised HPL in the urine is an indication of oxidative stress and zinc deficiency alone.

Symptoms can include pessimism, anaemia, poor stress control, fearfulness, episodic anger, poor short- term memory, gastrointestinal disorders, frequent infections along with the mental health issues mentioned above including anxiety and depression.

According to one expert elevated urinary pyrrole levels are found in Down syndrome (70%), Schizophrenia (up to 70%), autism (50%), ADHD (30%), and alcoholism (up to 80%). 43% of patients diagnosed with arthritis, chronic fatigue, heart disease, hypertension, irritable bowel, and migraine have elevated urinary pyrroles.

Nutrients and the Brain

Dr Bill Walsh in the USA conducted research that showed that nutrients can have tremendous healing power on the brain. In my work in clinic with children I see a huge increase in those testing positive to pyrroles.

´My treatment is very simple and involves simple B6 and zinc. I don’t generally use compounded supplements but practitioner-only products that are always individualized to the patient.

´I also make sure to treat the gut in order to diagnose/heal any gut issues including leaky gut and support the liver to improve detoxification pathways.

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