MonthJuly 2017

Reading of the Week: “Your Smartphone Will See You Now” – Torous on Digital Psychiatry; Also, the Costs of Homelessness

From the Editor

A few weeks ago, a patient’s daughter called. She was deeply concerned: the patient was acting differently, she explained. “He’s sick again.” She noted that he was starting to go on long walks at night, and to different neighbourhoods – something he does when he’s starting to get ill with his bipolar. She feared that, without a change in medications and careful follow up, he would end up in the hospital again. As a psychiatrist, that type of information can be invaluable – a clue that a patient is doing less well.

Could technology help us find clues for emerging illness, maybe even before family members or patients themselves?

This week, the first selection weighs this question. Harvard University’s Dr. John Torous considers big data and mental health. In his essay, “Your Smartphone Will See You Now,” he reviews current trends and writes: “I predict that this technology will have an enormous impact on psychiatry.”

mjkxndi1nwClever cover – promising future?

In the second selection, we consider a new paper that looks at the costs of homelessness in Canada. As part of the work of At Home/Chez Soi, the authors answer a basic and important question: what are the costs of homelessness?

Please note: there will be no Readings for the next two weeks.

DG

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Reading of the Week: ECT and Inpatients – An Underused Tool?

From the Editor

It’s a powerful tool that helps people with refractory depression and other illnesses.

It’s a treatment that carries a heavy stigma, and is used less today than even a decade ago.

Both statements describe electroconvulsive therapy (or ECT) – perhaps the most controversial intervention in psychiatry. And while it has been studied for decades, little work has been done considering the impact of ECT on inpatient readmissions. In this week’s Reading, we look at a new JAMA Psychiatry paper that studies ECT and readmissions.

Spoiler alert: the study authors found it decreased readmits.

Electroconvulsive therapy at Winwick Hospital in 1957: relevant then as now?

The paper begs a larger question: is an important tool in the treatment of those with mental illness being underutilized as newer (and less effective) treatments are chosen?

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Reading of the Week: “Taking On the Scourge of Opioids” – Dr. Sally Satel’s New Essay

From the Editor

Today, the addicted are not inner-city minori­ties, though big cities are increasingly reporting problems. Instead, they are overwhelmingly white and rural, though middle- and upper-class individuals are also affected. The jarring visual of the crisis is not an urban ‘gang banger’ but an overdosed mom slumped in the front seat of her car in a Walmart parking lot, toddler in the back.

So writes Dr. Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist, about the opioid epidemic.

Dr. Satel is writing about the United States, but these problems are also seen north of the 49th parallel. Canadians remain the second highest per-capita consumers of opioids in the world; for the record, only our southern neighbours best us. And, like in the U.S., opioid use has soared in recent years – and so has misuse.

Opioids: little pills, big problems

How did we get here? And where do we go?

This week’s selection: a new essay by Dr. Satel. Drawing on the words of Nicholas Eberstadt, she describes “a new plague for a new century.” Dr. Satel writes about the roots of this drug problem and considers options moving forward.

DG

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Reading of the Week: “The Secret to My Success? Antidepressants”

From the Editor

With the end of the academic year and the start of the new one, I’ll spend the next few days updating the distribution lists for the Reading of the Week series. I’m using this opportunity to make a few technical changes, too. This is the Reading of the Week equivalent of a spring clean-up – though it’s July, and I’m not touching a dustpan.

Spring cleaning, at least before computers

In any clean-up, we can mistakenly throw away something valuable – it’s possible that some of you may stop receiving these emails (if you are getting our emails). If that happens and you would like to continue to get the Readings, simply pop me a message.

This week, I’ve picked an entertaining and yet moving essay from writer Julia Fierro talking about her illness and her recovery. Enjoy.

Oh, and congratulations to our colleagues who have finished their studies. I hope you enjoy your career in medicine as much as I have.

DG

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