Tagmindfulness

Reading of the Week: The Best of 2015 — Books, Papers, and Hope

From the Editor

This will be the last Reading of the Week for 2015. (The Readings will resume in a fortnight.)

A bit of housekeeping: the Reading of the Week is a labour of love. There is no industry support for this project – or, in fact, any funding. Still, it’s hardly my project. Many readers (particularly residents) suggested papers and made comments over this past year. I’m also deeply grateful for the support of several colleagues; Drs. David Goldbloom and Mark Fefergrad deserve particular mention. And my father and wife have been great editorial supports.

It’s a Reading of the Week tradition to close the year by highlighting the best of the past 12 months.

Looking over the Readings of this year, I’m struck by the diversity of the publications that I could draw selections from. Sure, the Readings of 2015 included papers from The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA Psychiatry. But they also included moving personal essays that were published in newspapers; The Economist (yes, The Economist) covered mental illness and the burden of disease well and thoughtfully; the best articles on global psychiatry appeared in The New York Times.

It wasn’t that long ago that we hoped that discussion of mental illness would move out of the shadows. Today, slowly but surely, it is. And so, 2015 closes after 48 Readings and on this hopeful note.

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Reading of the Week: Zen or Zoloft? Mindfulness vs. Meds for Relapse Prevention in Depression

Depression typically has a relapsing and recurrent course. Without ongoing treatment, individuals with recurrent depression have a high risk of repeated depressive relapses or recurrences throughout their life with rates of relapse or recurrence typically in the range 50–80%.

So begins this week’s Reading (which is attached). As is so often the case, the journal writing is understated.

50-80%. Wow.

Having been in practice for some years, many stories come to mind when considering this statistic.

Here’s one: a young woman with a challenging childhood who pulled her life together, kept an unplanned pregnancy, and then tried to do everything right for herself and her daughter. In her late 20s, she fell into a deep depression, attempted suicide, and had a long admission. And, after work on the inpatient unit and in the outpatient department, she returned to her life: free of symptoms, working full time, raising her daughter. Feeling well, she stopped her citalopram, and became sick again (and with an employer keen on her termination because – and this sounds like a 19th century novel – “she told me I look dead on the outside”).

It’s easy to say that she should have stayed on her medications. But many of our patients don’t. The reasons vary – the side effects are too strong, the concept of medications is unappealing, etc. – but the end result is so often the same.

What then are non-medication options for maintenance in patients with depression? This week’s Reading offers an interesting answer: mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

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