TagNEJM

Reading of the Week: What do Google Searches Tell Us about Suicide & COVID? (CJP) Also, Bullock on Suicide (NEJM)

From the Editor

How will the pandemic impact mental health? Will we see more people with depression and PTSD? What about suicides?

In a recent JAMA Psychiatry paper, Mark A. Reger (of the University of Washington) and his co-authors argued that we may see a “perfect storm” with COVID-19, increasing the risk of suicide. A BMJ blog speculated that we could have a “pandemic after the pandemic,” as mental health problems grow even as the virus fades.

This week, we have two selections; the first focuses on suicide and the pandemic. Using an innovative approach – that is, considering Google searches for suicide and related terms, as a proxy for completions – the authors draw on American and international data. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, Dr. Mark Sinyor (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors find surprisingly “that the initial stages of the pandemic were accompanied by a substantial reduction in searches related to suicide, anxiety, and hopelessness with no change in searches for depression.”

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In the second selection, Dr. Justin L. Bullock (of the University of California, San Francisco) discusses suicide in The New England Journal of Medicine. The young doctor is very personal, describing his own struggles with mental illness. “‘I’m starting to get depressed,’ I told my sister emotionlessly. She began to cry, probably flashing back to the last time I was severely depressed, attempted suicide, and ended up in the ICU. I told her I was sad that my 2-year-old niece wouldn’t remember me. ‘Do you think I would ever let her forget you?’ she responded. We both cried.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Physician Burnout, Interrupted (NEJM); also, COVID and Schizophrenia (Schiz Bulletin) and a Reader Responds on Inpatient Care

From the Editor

As we come to understand the new normal – a world of PPEs and precautions – we need to consider not just the implications of the virus on today’s work, but tomorrow’s.

In the first selection, we look at a new paper on physician burnout. In The New England of Journal, Drs. Pamela Hartzband and Jerome Groopman (both of Harvard Medical School) argue that burnout will not be remedied by offers of exercise classes and the other usual prescriptions. Drawing on organizational psychology, they call for a fundamentally different approach, built on autonomy, competence, and relatedness. At a time of COVID, “health care professionals are responding with an astounding display of selflessness, caring for patients despite the risk of profound personal harm. Our efforts are recognized and applauded.” Now, they argue, is the moment for action.

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Are people with schizophrenia at particular risk during this pandemic? In the second selection, we consider a new Schizophrenia Bulletin paper by Dr. Nicole Kozloff (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors, who answer this question with a convincing yes. “We suggest that thoughtful consideration of the implications of COVID-19 for people with schizophrenia may not only reduce the burden of the global pandemic on people with schizophrenia, but also on the population as a whole.” They offer recommendations.

Finally, in the third selection, a reader responds to last week’s Reading. Rachel Cooper (of the University of Toronto) considers the inpatient experience. “Those of us who have spent time on psychiatric units, particularly while on forms (or held involuntarily), can speak to the immense isolation and feelings of violation of having our basic liberties removed. In this time of COVID, those with the privilege of not having had the experience of being in hospital involuntarily are getting a small taste of that isolation.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: COVID & Mental Health (NEJM); also, Helping Health Workers (CMAJ) and Caring Contact for the Elderly (Globe)

From the Editor

This week’s Reading – like the last few – focuses on the latest in the literature on COVID and mental health care with three selections. As life with the pandemic continues, more and more journals have published about it, with some discussing the implications for mental health services.

In the first selection, we consider a paper on mental health services and the pandemic. In a NEJM paper, Drs. Betty Pfefferbaum (of University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center) and Carol S. North (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center) argue for an integrated and measured approach. In responding to COVID, they advocate that: “already stretched health care providers have an important role in monitoring psychosocial needs and delivering psychosocial support to their patients, health care providers, and the public – activities that should be integrated into general pandemic health care.”

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How can we help health workers? In the second selection, we consider a new CMAJ paper by Dr. Peter E. Wu (of the University of Toronto)and co-authors. They write: “Taking care of ourselves is vital so that we may continue to take care of others.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a news article from The Globe and Mail. Reporter Erin Anderssen describes how “caring contacts,” a psychiatric intervention, is used by volunteers to connect with the elderly. “The spontaneous initiatives expanding now are prompted more by what we instinctively know: Human contact motivated purely by compassion is essential to our well-being.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Innovation & Pandemics (NEJM); Also, Telemental Health & Practice (QuickTakes) and Scott on Isolation (NYT)

 

From the Editor

After a short break, the Readings are back. And the world has changed over these past weeks.

We are all dealing with the stress of the pandemic, both at home and at work. I spoke recently with a physician who is a young mother, and she talked about balancing her different obligations, and working to keep her patients and family safe.

These are challenging times.

I want to acknowledge the frustration that we all have, particularly the PGY5s, who are so close to completing their studies but have had their Royal College examination postponed. It’s a tough moment for our young colleagues. But I have a few grey hairs, and have seen tough moments come and go – and I believe that things will work out just fine.

This week’s Reading includes three selections.

In the first selection, we consider innovation in the age of pandemic, with a new NEJM paper by Drs. Judd E. Hollander (of Thomas Jefferson University) and Brendan G. Carr (of Sinai). They discuss telemedicine and COVID. “Disasters and pandemics pose unique challenges to health care delivery. Though telehealth will not solve them all, it’s well suited for scenarios in which infrastructure remains intact and clinicians are available to see patients.”

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Then, we take a practical turn. Many of us clinicians use telemental health; with COVID, many more are thinking about taking the virtual care plunge. In the second selection, we consider a new podcast discussing telemental health. I talk with Dr. Allison Crawford of the University of Toronto. And, yes, she has tips on how to up your virtual care game. And to those thinking about using telemental health, she offers simple advice: “Do it. Try it.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a NYT essay by an astronaut. Thinking about his time and isolation in space, Scott Kelly provides some clever advice. “I’ve found that most problems aren’t rocket science, but when they are rocket science, you should ask a rocket scientist.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: ED Visits & Follow Ups – the New Psych Services Paper; Also, Antipsychotics and Brains (JAMA Psych) and Physician Biases (NEJM)

From the Editor

How accessible is urgent outpatient mental health care in Canada? Do antipsychotics affect the brain structure of people with psychotic depression? How can physician biases change cardiac care?

This week, we consider three very different selections, drawing from the latest in the literature.

Outpatient Sign over a Hospital Outpatient Services Entrance

In the first selection, Dr. Lucy C. Barker (University of Toronto) and her co-authors look at follow-ups after an ED visit. As the authors note: “Urgent outpatient mental health care is crucial for ongoing assessment and management and for preventing repeat visits to the ED and other negative outcomes.” Drawing on Ontario data, they find that “fewer than half had a physician follow-up visit within 14 days of the ED visit for outpatient mental health care.” Ouch.

In the second selection, we consider a new paper by Dr. Aristotle N. Voineskos (University of Toronto) et al. In an impressive study across multiple sites, they find a connection between cortical thinning and the use of antipsychotics: “olanzapine exposure was associated with a significant reduction compared with placebo exposure for cortical thickness.” Ouch.

Finally, it’s said about health care that “geography is destiny” – so much of the patient experience is tied to her or his place of care, with incredible variations in services between, say, rural and urban centres. In an unusual research letter for The New England Journal of Medicine, Andrew R. Olenski (Columbia University) and his co-authors consider heart surgery and patient age – that is, within two weeks of a patient’s 80th birthday. They argue that numbers are destiny, with heart surgery influenced by “the occurrence of left-digit bias in clinical decision-making…” Ouch.

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

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cuijpers on Depression Treatment (WP); Also, Suicide (NEJM), and Sinyor on DeRozan & Depression (Star)

From the Editor

How to treat depression? How do we approach suicide? Who is the greatest Raptor of all time?

This week, we consider three pieces.

In the first selection, Pim Cuijpers (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and his co-authors do a network meta-analysis of depression treatment, weighing psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, and the combination of the two. They find: “combined treatment is more effective than psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy alone in the short‐term treatment of moderate depression, and there are no significant differences between psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.”

In a short New England Journal of Medicine paper, Drs. Seena Fazel (Oxford University) and Bo Runeson (Karolinska Institutet) review a topic of relevance to all clinicians: suicide. “Management of suicidality calls for a comprehensive approach to assessment and treatment.”

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER, 25 DeMar DeRozen poses for photos. It was media day for the Toronto Raptors at their training facility, the BioSteel Centre. Coaches and players met with media, answered questions and had a variety of photographs taken. (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)Yes, we talk about basketball this week

Finally, in the third selection, the University of Toronto’s Dr. Mark Sinyor writes about basketball and his favourite Raptor – and, yes, stigma.

DG

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Reading of the Week: A Century After Osler, Is He Relevant (NEJM)? Also, AI & Diagnosis (CMAJ) and Ketamine & Safety (JAD)

From the Editor

A century after his death, is Dr. Osler still relevant?

This week, there are three selections. First, we start with a look back with an essay on Dr. William Osler. We then look forward: with papers on AI and ketamine.

In the first selection, Drs. Charles S. Bryan (the University of South Carolina) and Scott H. Podolsky (Harvard University) write in The New England Journal of Medicine about Dr. Osler on the 100th anniversary of his death. Contemplating his life and views, they note that he “gave physicians what certain national historians gave their countries: warm feelings of togetherness, pride, and purpose.”

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In the second selection, we look at a CMAJ paper. Considering AI and health care, University of Strasbourg’s Dr. Thierry Pelaccia and his co-authors write about the reasoning of mind and machine. They see a bright future: “AI can assume its place as a routine tool in medical practice.”

Finally, for the third selection, we consider a new paper on ketamine and safety from the Journal of Affective Disorders. Drawing on several studies, NIMH’s Elia E. Acevedo-Diaz and her co-authors conclude: “The results indicate that a single intravenous subanesthetic-dose ketamine infusion was relatively safe for the treatment of [treatment-resistant depression].”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cutting-Edge Care – Esketamine for Depression (NEJM), Digital Psychiatry for Suicide Prevention (JAMA Psych), Asylums for All (AJP)

From the Editor

This time of year, many doctors take to social media to offer advice to young colleagues as they start their specialty training (#TipsForNewDocs). Generally, the tweets give solid suggestions on everything from the importance of mentorship to doing regular exercise. For those new grads beginning psychiatry training, I offer: read more, the field is evolving. Since I started my psychiatry residency 19 years ago this month, we have seen new antidepressants placed into the drug cabinets of our patients, mental-health apps populate their smart phones, and clinical guidelines enter our practices, helping us better manage their mental illness.

This week’s Reading focuses on cutting-edge care, and there is plenty to read.

In our first selection, we consider a new paper from The New England Journal of Medicine. Written by Dr. Jean Kim and four other FDA officials, the authors discuss esketamine for depression. “The drug represents an important addition to the treatment options for patients with treatment-resistant depression.”

nasal-spray-sEsketamine: from club drug to depression care

In our second selection, Dr. John Torous (of Harvard Medical School) and Rheeda Walker (of the University of Houston) consider digital psychiatry and suicide prevention, reviewing the field with cautious optimism. The paper opens with a single sentence that puts these efforts in perspective: “Because the rates of suicide attempts and deaths have recently increased to 50-year highs,new solutions are needed.”

And, in our third selection, we look at a not-so-new editorial from The American Journal of Insanity that calls for better treatment of the poor.

Enjoy.

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: ‘Sister First, Doctor Second’ – Dr. Sediqzadah’s NEJM Paper on Her Brother and His Illness

From the Editor

“‘I think your brother has schizophrenia,’ she said.

“I was entering my third year of medical school when I received a phone call from my brother’s friend.”

So begins a perspective paper published in today’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The essay is deeply moving. Written by Dr. Saadia Sediqzadah, a fifth year psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto, the author discusses her brother’s schizophrenia and her family’s efforts to get him care – for Dr. Sediqzadah, dealing with mental illness is not just part of her training.

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This week, we consider Dr. Sediqzadah’s paper.

Note that for some of our younger colleagues who have just finished their medical training and begun their specialty training in psychiatry, this week will be your first Reading. Welcome to the conversation.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Do E-Cigarettes Help with Smoking Cessation? The New NEJM Paper

From the Editor

Last week, I spoke to a patient who wanted passes off the ward so that he could smoke. When I suggested that we could help him reduce his nicotine use – and maybe even help him quit – he responded: “I’ve been smoking for 40 years. I’ll never quit.”

As much as the comment is disappointing, it is all too familiar. Nicotine is highly addictive, and it’s very challenging for our patients to quit.

What then to make of e-cigarettes? While they have been marketed well for smoking cessation, the evidence to date has been lacking. Do they offer a pathway to ending nicotine use? Or are e-cigarettes another type of nicotine product – addictive and ultimately unhelpful?

This week, we look at a paper just published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Queen Mary University of London’s Peter Hajek and his co-authors report on a “pragmatic, multicenter, individually randomized, controlled trial” comparing e-cigarettes to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). It’s the first adequately powered study on this topic. And this Very Big Paper comes with a Very Big Result: e-cigarettes offered a strong advantage over NRTs.

e-cigGreat ad, great product?

In this week’s Reading, we look at the Hayek et al. paper and consider e-cigarettes.

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DG

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