AuthorDavid Gratzer

Reading of the Week: Breaking the Stigma – Dr. Adam B. Hill on his Depression and Addiction

From the Editor

“My name is Adam. I am a human being, a husband, a father, a pediatric palliative care physician, and an associate residency director. I have a history of depression and suicidal ideation and am a recovering alcoholic.”

So begins this week’s selection, which is an essay written with remarkable candor and honesty.

1docDiscussing what we should discuss

In this Reading, Dr. Adam Hill writes in The New England Journal of Medicine about his struggle with mental illness.

It is moving and important.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Schizophrenia & Diabetes: The Gap in Care; Also, Swedish Health Care

From the Editor 

“The pain in my feet. It’s killing me.”

That’s what John told me when I asked him what he needed help with. It’s not quite the answer I thought he’d give – John has schizophrenia and he has significant side effects from his medications. But, like many people with mental illness, he also struggles with physical illness (diabetes and the accompanying neuropathy).

Many of our patients have both physical and mental illnesses. When faced with these twin challenges, how do they fair?

In this week’s first selection, we look at a new paper that considers people with schizophrenia and diabetes. The study authors find a significant gap between the care received by those with and without mental illness.

insulinAn old drug, an old illness, and a big problem for those with mental illness

In our second selection, drawing from a lively blog written by medical student Ali Damji, we look at Swedish health care.

DG
Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Can a Fake Intervention Help Real Pain? Also, Preventing Depression

From the Editor 

“To a degree which has never been suspected, what powerful influence upon diseases is produced by mere imagination.” British physician John Haygarth wrote those words more than two centuries ago when considering the placebo effect.

Is it possible to successfully treat people with placebo in an open-label trial? That is, if people know they are taking placebo, will they still experience the benefit of placebo?

painCan a fake intervention help real pain?

In this week’s selection, we look at a new study where participants were offered placebo for back pain. Spoiler alert: it worked.

And, in a new feature for the Reading of the Week, we include an invited letter to the editor from Dr. Albert H. C. Wong who writes about the best way of preventing depression.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Are Cats Making Us Sick? The Solmi et al. Paper, and Prescribing Housing in Hawaii

From the Editor

A few years ago, Czech scientist Jaroslav Flegr made a splash by arguing that our feline friends were causing psychosis in people – The Atlantic provocatively titled their article on him: “How Your Cat is Making You Sick.” Flegr’s argument was based in part on several papers (including by prominent researcher E. Fuller Torrey) noting that cat ownership confers an increased risk of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

So, are cats safe for household use?

In our first selection, we look at a new Psychological Medicine paper that, with a cohort study, finds no connection between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms.

Good news, tabby: you can stay

How to help the homeless? In our second selection, drawing from The Guardian, we look at a Hawaiian effort to prescribe the housing to the homeless – literally.

Please note that there will be no Readings for the next two weeks. Enjoy the March break.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Do Markets Work for (Mental) Health Services? The Arrow Paper

From the Editor

His New York Times obituary opens: “Kenneth J. Arrow, one of the most brilliant economic minds of the 20th century and, at 51, the youngest economist ever to win a Nobel, died on Tuesday at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 95.”

Kenneth J. Arrow

As a tribute to Kenneth Arrow, this week’s paper is his “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economic of Medical Care.”

This paper was published decades ago. Our selections try to be current. But we’ll make an exception for a good reason: Kenneth Arrow, one of the most significant economists of the 20th Century, died last week; his work on health care and economics remains deeply influential. Indeed, whether we are discussing the Choosing Wisely campaign or debating the expansion of public coverage under Obamacare, we are essentially weighing in on Arrow’s 1963 health economics paper – which makes this paper a natural choice for this week’s Reading.

Arrow didn’t mention mental health in his 1963 paper. But as we seek to better mental health services, his observations on the problems of health-care information are worth considering.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Mood & Anxiety in Four Countries – More Care, Better Outcomes? The Jorm et al. Paper

From the Editor

Earlier this month, the Commonwealth Fund released a report that surveyed 11 countries for the performance of their health-care systems; it received much media attention. Their work helps provide perspective on our system’s strengths and weaknesses.

International comparisons are relevant in mental health, of course. As stigma fades and as evidence-based treatment options have expanded, we can ask: are people with common mental health problems getting better? And are there lessons to learn from our national experiences?

Four countries, one big problem?

This week, we look at a study that has just been published in World Psychiatry, drawing data from four countries. In the paper, Jorm et al. find that – looking at the prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders and symptoms – people aren’t better off today. The authors consider several explanations.

This paper hasn’t gather much attention here in Canada. But as we look to increase funding for mental health services, it’s an important and relevant paper.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Violence & Mental Illness

From the Editor

What’s the connection between mental illness and violence?

For years, the Hollywood depiction was black and white: mental illness caused brutal violent behaviour. And maybe society held those views, too – think of the old newspaper headlines talking about ‘psycho killers.’ Times have changed. Hollywood is slowly abandoning the caricatures; newspapers discuss violence against the mentally ill. But to answer this question, of course, we need to look to studies and journals, not the silver screen and journalism, and understand that the relationship between mental illness and violence is much more nuanced.

Hollywood and mental illness: room for improvement

This week, we review two papers. The first, from Psychiatric Services, considers different types of violence and mental illness. No surprise here: like other studies, the authors show that those with mental disorders are more likely to be victims of violence rather than violent to others. But the authors note a larger picture of violence. This short paper is far-reaching in its findings.

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry’s February issue considers violence and schizophrenia (part of the In Review Series). The Quinn and Kolla paper presents a thoughtful review of the literature for evidence-based treatments for violence in schizophrenia.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Gawande’s New Yorker Essay on Primary Care (and, Yes, Mental Health)

From the Editor

How is health care changing?

To answer that question, we look this week not to a medical journal, but to The New Yorker. We consider an essay not on new drugs or imaging, but on the quiet rise of… primary care.

Primary care and the future

Dr. Atul Gawande writes a long essay on the virtues of primary care. Considering how medicine has shifted from acute care to chronic illness, he describes the importance of primary care, drawing on his own training and thinking – and the cardiac issues of his son.

Though this essay doesn’t directly consider mental illness, it is very relevant.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Pushing Past the Headlines – Substances & Health Services, and Medically Assisted Death & Cost Savings

From the Editor

It makes sense that those with substance use problems and mental illness consume more health resources – but how much more? As Canadians opt for medical assistance in dying, what will the impact be on health spending?

Readings don’t necessarily follow a theme. But this week, we push past newspaper headlines to consider two topical issues in more detail, tapping the latest in the literature.

Pushing past the headlines

In the first paper, Graham et al. consider health costs and utilization for people with mental health and/or substance use problems. Spoiler alert: these individuals are much more likely to use health services, resulting in higher costs. That’s not exactly a surprise, but Graham et al. provide a detailed analysis in an area that has been understudied.

In the second paper, drawing from Dutch data, Trachtenberg and Manns estimate the savings from medically assisted death.

Both papers are timely. Both reach interesting conclusions.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Physician, Heal Thyself? The Gold et al. Study on Docs and Disclosure (and Mental Illness)

From the Editor

If you had depression, would you tell people?

This week’s Reading is a paper from General Hospital Psychiatry that considers just this question. In it, the authors surveyed American female physicians, asking about mental disorders and why they would or wouldn’t choose to get help – and to tell people.

Would you share your mental health history?

This paper is paired with an essay written by Dr. Nathaniel P. Morris, a Stanford resident of psychiatry, who mulls mental illness and disclosure – and has a big disclosure of his own.

DG Continue reading