AuthorDavid Gratzer

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?

DG Continue reading

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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Reading of the Week: Do Suicide Barriers Work? Sinyor et al. on the Bloor Viaduct and Toronto Suicides

From the Editor

Do suicide barriers really work, or do they cost money that could have been better spent elsewhere?

This debate raged in Toronto about a decade and a half ago when some argued that a suicide barrier must be added to the Bloor Viaduct. That bridge, which connects downtown Toronto with its east end, was considered a “suicide magnet” – a place that proved popular for suicide attempts. In North America, only the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco had more suicides associated with it. Media coverage of the debate included an article in The New York Times; it ran with the dramatic headline: “A Veil of Deterrence for a Bridge With a Dark Side.”

And in 2003, the barrier went up.

So did the suicide rate go down?

This week, we look at a new paper just published by Sunnybrook’s Mark Sinyor et al. Drawing on years of data, they consider the utility of the Bloor Viaduct suicide barrier. They find that it has saved lives. The paper obviously has implications for other bridges and cities.

The Bloor Viaduct: big debate, big outcome?

The authors also looked at media reporting on suicide.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Is ‘New’ Overrated? Antipsychotics in the Real World

From the Editor

Is new better?

You may be reading this on an iPhone 7, having driven to work this morning in a 2017 Hybrid Prius. So should your patients be taking a medication that became available four-and-a-half decades ago – when people drove gus-gusling eight-cylinder Oldsmobiles and smartphones didn’t even exist in science fiction novels.

This week, we look at a just-published JAMA Psychiatry paper which promises to look at the “real-world” effectiveness of antipsychotics. The authors tapped Swedish databases to consider outcomes for nearly thirty thousand people with schizophrenia.

Sweden: elaborate welfare state, beautiful historic buildings, and – yes – rich databases

Spoiler alert: new wasn’t better. That is, newer antipsychotics tended to underperform clozapine and depot medications.

We also look at similar “real-world” work drawing from a Finnish database considering treatment of depression.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Dreams of My Uncle – Husock on His “Unmentionable” Uncle & His Mental Illness

From the Editor

“To say that I didn’t know my great-uncle, Wolfe Levine, would understate things. I didn’t even know of such an uncle, brother of my mother’s father (a grandfather with whom I was close). In retrospect, it’s clear that my great-uncle was simply unmentionable.”

So begins Howard Husock, Vice President of the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy, in a long essay that traces the illness and institutionalization of his great uncle.

The author’s great uncle

The piece asks a simple question: “Are we treating the mentally ill better today than we did a century ago?”

It’s a beautiful essay, that touches on history, psychiatry, and a family member who was “unmentionable.”

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Award of Excellence in Mental Health

Individuals in need of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) typically face challenges like long wait lists, a shortage of therapists, and lack of access to a therapist outside of regular business hours. Now, adult outpatient clients of Scarborough and Rouge Hospital’s Mental Health department can access treatment for anxiety and depression any time and place that is most convenient for them.

My Scarborough and Rouge Hospital team was awarded the 2017 Award of Excellence in Mental Health and Quality Improvement from the Canadian College of Health Leaders.

cchl-ccls_vertical-tagline_colour_250px

Our  team won this honour for our e-therapy work. The gala dinner was in Vancouver this Sunday.

Full details here: https://www.cchl-ccls.ca/site/awards_mentalhealth_quality

Nice.

Reading of the Week: Better Treatment, Safer Roads? The New JAMA Psychiatry Paper on ADHD & Driving

From the Editor

How can we reduce the number of car accidents?

We often speak about treating mental illness in terms of reducing personal suffering. Recent selections have looked at the economic cost of mental illness. But what are the implications to public health?

This week, we look at a new JAMA Psychiatry paper; this national cohort study involved more than 2.3 million people with ADHD, and considered motor vehicle crashes (as measured by emergency department visits) and whether or not they were taking medications.

Yes, he has a plaid shirt, but should he be taking his prescription meds?

Spoiler alert: The authors find “medication use for the disorder was associated with a significantly reduced risk” of vehicle accidents.

We also look at an editorial that finds “clinical pearls” in this paper.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Is Psychoanalysis Relevant? Paris vs. Ravitz

From the Editor

“Today, psychoanalysis has been marginalized and is struggling to survive in a hostile academic and clinical environment. This raises the question as to whether the paradigm is still relevant in psychiatric science and practice.”

This week, we consider the relevance of psychoanalysis.

Drawing from the May issue of The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, we look at two papers.

Freud and analysis: debating his relevance

In a Perspectives piece, Dr. Joel Paris argues that psychoanalysis is part our legacy – but not much more. In an Editorial, Dr. Paula Ravitz responds. She opens by writing: “My concern is that by unnecessarily pitting psychiatry against psychoanalysis, we may throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

It’s a great and important debate.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Effective Therapy for Anxious & Depressed Youth in a Peds Clinic? The New Weersing Study

From the Editor

“Anxiety and depression in youth are widely prevalent, highly impairing, and woefully undertreated.”

So writes San Diego State University’s V. Robin Weersing and her co-authors in a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. In this study, they compare a pediatric clinic-based brief behavioural treatment to referral to outpatient services for depression and anxiety. It’s a novel approach – and one with significant advantages (housing treatment in a primary care setting, to name just one).

So does this work? Spoiler alert: the brief behavioural treatment (BBT) comes out on top.

Anxiety treatment in the peds office: would Norman Rockwell approve?

As an accompanying Editorial notes: “The efficacy of BBT is particularly telling given the low response rate to treatment as usual in the control condition (57% vs 28%), especially for Hispanic populations (76% vs 7%).”

Please note: there will be no Reading next week because of the APA Annual Meeting. (I hope to see you in California.)

DG

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