Tania de Jong: About Mind Medicine Australia
Tania de Jong joins us from Australia to introduce Mind Medicine Australia, a coalition partner of the World Council for Health.
Tania de Jong is Executive Director of Mind Medicine Australia. She is a trail-blazing Australian soprano, award-winning entrepreneur, creative innovation catalyst, and more.
Mind Medicine Australia exists to help alleviate the suffering and suicides caused by mental illness in Australia through expanding the treatment options available to medical practitioners and their patients.
This is an edited segment from the weekly live General Assembly meeting on January 10, 2022. The full meeting can be viewed here.
Here’s what WCH members, staff, and coalition partners are saying about Tania’s presentation:
“I came across the effectiveness of racemic Ketamine for major ICU depression by default through another colleague. When I started reading about it I was shocked how Jannsen had tried to subdue by manufacturing a selective S-ketamine isomer at an exorbitant price. There is no difference in efficacy between the two! We have since been using it routinely in the ICU for all long-stayers with depression with amazing results.” -Nathi Mdladla
“Transcendental Meditation (TM) is also well researched, a whole mind and body health supporting practice; very quickly effective for lots of things eg PTSD; USA veterans study showing it to be as good or better than current standard treatment. It is different to mindfulness and more powerful than other meditation techniques. TM teachers are worldwide and should be easy to access.” -Marise Brice
“We will need something like this — easy to give to masses of people — as we progress throughout the different phases of the pandemic. So many patients with PTSD, depression, anxiety to come.” -Dr. Stephen Malthouse
“Awesome Tania – well done.” -Ros Nealon-Cook
“Amazing presentation!! Thank you very much!!🌹🌹” -Zafeiria Kakaletri
“Big Pharma will not allow any therapeutic or intervention they can’t control and profit from to flourish. They even go after each other if they can, so there is no way they’ll allow repurposing old therapies with no patents!” -Nathi Mdladla
[00:00:30] Shabnam Palesa Mohamed: We’re moving on then to Tania de Jong, who is executive director of Mind Medicine Australia.
[00:00:38] Tania is a trailblazing Australian soprano award-winning social entrepreneur, creative innovation capitalist, a spiritual journey woman, storyteller and global speaker. Tania is one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovations developing six businesses and three charities. And she listed them in her bio.
[00:01:00] And of course she works across the public private, creative and community sectors is passionate about mental health, innovation, diversity, and inclusion. Tanya, we’d love to hear more about mind medicine, Australia. You have the mic for 10 minutes.
[00:01:16] Tania de Jong: Thank you so much. And, um, I just want to say what a pleasure and privilege it is to, to be with y’all.
[00:01:24] I honor the incredible work that all of you are doing in the world, in this fight for truth and transparency and real health and real science, um, for bringing your life into this world. So I just want to say what a privilege it is. Um, we, are going to start off with a short video and I guess I come from the place that we, I’m not a doctor.
[00:01:52] Um, but I care deeply, um, about health and wellbeing, and I’ve dedicated most of my life to that. And we have such a shadow pandemic, as one of our leading psychiatrists in Australia described it, of mental illness. And it really is accelerating daily and is such an enormous concern. And we don’t have the tools in our toolbox to treat this incredible crisis.
[00:02:22] And so today I’m going to talk about a new hope with psychedelic assisted therapy. My colleague Alon is going to show a short video now, and then I’m going to whiz through a presentation, very rapid speed. Um, so, um, and I’ll be able to provide some links. And we’ll also send that presentation in full to Zoe, so that she can disseminate it with all of you following. Elon, would you be able to show the video now.
[00:02:52] Video: Did you know that over 45% of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime?
[00:02:59] That’s nearly half of us, [unintelligible] 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 trialed worldwide and has demonstrated remarkable promise in treating depression, anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
[00:03:40] With new trials underway for treatment of dementia and anorexia. The treatment combines a short program of psychotherapy with just a few medicinal doses of psilocybin or MDMA. In the 1950s and sixties, psychedelic treatments had a major impact in psychiatry and many considered it the next big thing in mental health treatment.
[00:04:05] But for political reasons, the Nixon administration criminalize 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 remission 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.
[00:04:39] We will seek to establish best practice in regulated psychedelic assisted treatment. Mind Medicine Australia is wholly focused on the clinical application of psychedelic medicines. We’re preparing for change by developing therapists, training, ethical guidelines, center of excellence and psychedelic medicine, educational material, and events, and supporting clinical research.
[00:05:04] We’re a small organization doing big things, and we need your support. Please share this video and visit our website to support us and get involved.
[00:05:15] Tania de Jong: So I’m just going to share my screen now.
[00:05:18] So this is what Australia looks like at the moment. Pre COVID, one in five Australian adults had a mental illness. One in eight Australians were on antidepressants, including one in four older adults. Including one in 30 children, as young as four with an estimated one in two of us to experience a mental illness. But as a result of the pandemic, four and five Australians are now reporting poor mental health.
[00:05:45] And a third of Australians have said that their mental health has declined through the pandemic. So this is a major crisis. It’s getting worse, obviously certain parts of the population like veterans and first responders and certain other professions, um, have a far higher incidents of mental illness as well.
[00:06:05] The costs are immeasurable as well as you know, the links to unemployment, um, homelessness and tragically suicide. The elephant in the room is the lack of innovation and treatments for mental illness. And you can see the elephant there, they are trying to get the attention of everyone saying, well, you know, you can create more access pathways, train more psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, um, provide more tele health sessions.
[00:06:31] But if you can’t get to the root cause of the person’s suffering, you can’t get them well and out of the system. Now there’s been no improvement in treatment outcomes in terms of pharmacotherapy for more than 50 years. In the case of depression, only 30 to 35% of sufferers get remission from primarily antidepressants or psychotherapy.
[00:06:54] The side effects are enormous. In the case of post-traumatic stress disorder, as few as 5% of patients actually go into remission from existing treatments. So my husband and I set up Mind Medicine in Australia with philanthropists and social entrepreneurs and have, this is our fifth charity. And our goal is to expand the treatment options available to wonderful practitioners like yourself and your patients through particularly at the moment, focusing on medicinal psilocybin and MDMA, but we’re also interested in other psychedelics as well, which are also being investigated around the world, but MDMA and psilocybin and most advanced in the global trials, our goal is that these become an integral part of the mental health system.
[00:07:41] The first-line treatment, alongside traditional pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. That they continue to achieve incredibly high remission rates they’re getting in the trials. So to just give you a sense of what those are, 60 to 80% remission rates across over 160 trials after just two to three medicinal treatments in combination with a short course of psychotherapy that’s versus the 30, 35% I mentioned all the 5% for PTSD.
[00:08:13] That’s an enormous amount of people getting well and in leading healthy and meaningful lives. And of course our goal is that these are accessible and affordable for all people who need them. So we set up and critical board that has the former head of the armed forces, that has a former trade minister who suffered with treatment resistant depression for 43 years.
[00:08:39] And has the head of the ethics center, who says it’s unethical for these treatments, not to be available to patients who are suffering. And we have a growing team in the world, leading doctors and researchers in this field. These people have dedicated their lives and careers to making these medicines available against enormous stigma and prejudice. And I find it extremely ironic that these medicines, which have been around since the beginning of human civilization and potentially before are so stigmatized and have to go through all these trials when of course, um, the injections, uh, are still in experimental phase and being pushed through.
[00:09:21] It’s a remarkable, um, yeah, juxtaposition, I guess. And a terrible injustice. Um, we also have a global advisory panel of thousands, of hundreds, I mean, of psychiatrists, psychologists, I’m just going to flip through these doctors, um, GPs, physicians of all kinds, behavioral scientists, religious leaders, pharmacologists, lawyers, anthropologists, public health sector experience and military leaders and so on.
[00:09:54] So as I said before, just two to three dose sessions, the medicines are curative, not palliative. They considered very safe in medically controlled environments. And non-addictive. Both have been granted breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA, which is very rare and only used for medicines that could be vastly superior to existing treatments, to fast track the approval process.
[00:10:21] They’re administered in medically controlled environments. The patients never gets to take them home. And there’s three steps to the actual way that the sessions and the therapy works. So you have screening with your therapist to ensure that you are an appropriate candidate for this treatment with your doctor. So any particular conditions like a psychotic conditions might be screened out.
[00:10:49] Um, then just the one to three sessions, usually two or three sessions with the medicines, each of which is followed by integration sessions. Because for most patients, these treatments, believe it or not, are described as one of the five most meaningful experiences in their lives. Many cases, patients describe these experiences, the most meaningful experience in their lives because of the sense of awe, wonder, total connection with self, others, the planet.
[00:11:20] And for many patients who are feeling depressed or mentally unwell, it’s usually a sense of disconnection, isolation, and separation, which characterizes that illness. So to give people a sense of connection is an incredible gift.
[00:11:36] Medicinal MDMA and psilocybin have very different therapeutic actions I don’t have time to go through that now, but we will send some information and links to follow. Here’s the strong safety record with thousands of patients for all the trials.
[00:11:52] There’s never been a death. There’s never been a heart attack or any serious adverse event of any kind whatsoever. Patient there you can say undergoing the treatment with an eye mask, headphones, with a curated musical playlist, two therapists holding the space and supporting them through the experience.
[00:12:12] Even in recreational environments, you can see that the relative safety of these medicines is incredibly high and yet alcohol, which is freely available, available as the greatest risk of harm to self and others.
[00:12:26] The testimonials from patients who’ve been through these treatments is remarkable. I felt like I went through 15 years of psychological therapy in one night.
[00:12:34] Everyone deserve to have this experience. No one could ever do harm to another again. Wars would be impossible to wage.
[00:12:44] The normal effect size for an antidepressant for depression is 0.3. And on the Cohen’s D scale and psilocybin for depression, 2.0, 3.1, these effects are off the chart. Again, I’m speeding through this because of the time limitations, but I want to talk about a couple of specific slides and this is one of them which shows how, um, these substances actually work in the brain.
[00:13:08] So they bypass the default mode network of the brain, which keeps us stuck and defaulting to a typical programs and patterns. And you can see here, um, representations of fMRI scans. The one on the right is patient with depression. And you can see very limited rigid, stuck thought patents. I’m not good enough, things won’t work out.
[00:13:28] Very little neural connectivity connection between the different hemispheres. Remarkably, both of these circles have the same amount of lines and dots in them, but just one is functioning really well. And one is not with the ingestion of the psilocybin. You see this incredible neurogenesis taking place, this increased neuroplasticity and connectivity, and many researchers and doctors describe it like rebooting, resetting the brain, you know, when your computer’s not working well, and then you press the reset button and all of a sudden it starts working again.
[00:14:02] It’s like, defragging the dodgy hard drive, which is why many entrepreneurs around the world and in particularly in Silicon valley, are microdosing with these substances, because it also increases creativity and productivity and so on. But with people who are mentally ill, it really starts to remove those repetitive and rigid styles of thinking and create a window where the patient can work with a therapist to really fast track their healing because their brains become more flexible and open to new ways of coping.
[00:14:35] And they are able to set new actions of behavior as a result of these treatments. They also have increasing remission rates over time. And, um, this born on new studies at New York university, Johns Hopkins university, and so on. And again, I’m just sort of speeding through this, but in the MAPS phase two trials, there were 105 participants all with treatment resistant PTSD for an average of 18 years, you can imagine they’re suffering.
[00:15:03] 52% of them went into remission immediately after three doses of MDMA and 68% at the 12 month followup. That just goes to show how the remissions increase after further integration with the therapist that led to the current phase three trials.
[00:15:20] And you can say these extraordinary results that in part one of the current phase three trials, under supervision of the FDA, 67% of participants immediately went into remission, no longer qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD and 88% of them experienced meaningful clinical, um, reduction in symptoms.
[00:15:43] There was also a head-to-head trial by Imperial college last year, directly comparing psilocybin, just two doses of psilocybin with a daily dose of escitalopram, a leading SSRI for six weeks. Both groups had a short course of psychotherapy. And at the end of the trial, twice, as many people in the psilocybin group had gone into remission as the antidepressant group and the side effects were minimal in the psilocybin group versus the other group.
[00:16:14] Again, I’m just I’m racing. But when I was saying these medicines being trialed for a range of other conditions, addictions, obsessive compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, um, also physical conditions like weight loss, fibromyalgia, and so on, anorexia, eating disorders, dementia, and so on.
[00:16:35] They’re also available for a compassionate access and special access schemes in Switzerland, US, Canada, Israel, and also now Australia, but we’re still struggling with our federal system in Australia and the Australian government just announced a $15 million grant, uh, for a number of institutions, which we, um, helped unlock through our federal government.
[00:16:57] We’re working with the TGA to try and get these rescheduled, which is, uh, very difficult because of the political stigma. This is another very political issue. It’s very instituted. As I said earlier, to compare, you know, the challenges with all these other treatments that all of you are talking about, which are being suppressed and these treatments, which have also been suppressed, um, a number of states in the US are legalizing these medicines and the Canadian government has also just legalized them under compassionate access scheme.
[00:17:29] Numerous of the leading universities around the world, including Oxford, Yale, Harvard, and so on, um, have advanced research and development programs. There’s also many centers of excellence now around the world, uh, leading in this field. And as you can see in, as I mentioned, these medicines have been around since the beginning and indigenous cultures and religious cultures. In the fifties and sixties, as you saw on the video, they were considered the next big thing and use in therapeutic environments for over 40,000 patients.
[00:18:06] Shabnam Palesa Mohamed: Yes. I cannot tell you how much I’m enjoying this presentation. It’s absolutely fascinating, right. Nearly finished, or I can give you about a minute more. Thanks, Tania.
[00:18:20] Tania de Jong: Thank you. So Stan Grof said psychedelics would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy, you know, incredible right.
[00:18:29] Sort of like ivermectin for health and, um, you know, and then we have these guy that comes along and basically, um, politicizes psychedelics. And this is not for any psychedelic for, for any scientific reason, criminalize the use of them that stopped all research funding and David Nutt from Imperial describes it as the worst censorship of research and medical treatment in the history of humanity.
[00:18:56] That led to this, you know, 50 year hiatus in which we’ve had this major spike in loneliness, social isolation, disconnection, mental illness. And now we have this massive Renaissance. We have these huge growth of for-profits around the world, emerging in this massively and rapidly expanding sector. And then we have Alex who’s building the ecosystem in Australia and the Asia Pacific through awareness knowledge building.
[00:19:24] So, you know, so wonderful to be part of this network. We have lots of wonderful free webinars. We had a major global summit just a month or two ago. We fund relevant research. We have state regional chapters. We’ve got the first ever certificate in psychedelic assisted therapist led by world-leading faculty like Gabor Mate. Many of the other ladies in the field, um, in the Southern hemisphere. And, um, we’re working with the regulators rolling out of clinics and so on. So, uh, how you can help lots of ways here they are. And, um, I’ll leave it at that. We’ll share some information.
[00:20:08] Shabnam Palesa Mohamed: Thanks very much, Tania, like I said, a fascinating presentation on Mind Medicine Australia, there are a couple of comments and questions in the chat. If we can ask you to please engage them and also to post your website address in the chat, that would be amazing. Thank you very much for this presentation.
[00:20:26] We certainly need to keep this conversation going.
[00:20:30] Tania de Jong: It’s a pleasure and an honor, and everyone keep fighting the good fight we will never give up.
[00:20:36] Shabnam Palesa Mohamed: We will never give up. Indeed. We keep creating a better way. Thank you very much, Tania, from Mind Medicine Australia.