TagThe British Journal of Psychiatry

Reading of the Week: Can Light Therapy Help with Bipolar Depression? Also, the Racism of COVID (BJP) & Gottlieb on the Toilet as the New Couch (NYT)

From the Editor

After his manic episode, the first patient I treated with bipolar disorder was low in mood for months, able to get out of bed, but not able to work. I remember him sitting in my office talking about feeling overwhelmed. For many people with bipolar disorder, the depressive episodes are long and debilitating. And for us clinicians, these episodes are difficult to treat. (I remember feeling overwhelmed, too.)

Can light therapy help?

The first selection seeks to answer that question. Light therapy, after all, has shown its utility in depression, including for those with a seasonal pattern to their lows. But bipolar depression? In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, Dr. Raymond W. Lam (of UBC) and his co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis. They included seven papers. “This meta-analysis of RCTs found positive but nonconclusive evidence that light therapy is efficacious and well tolerated as adjunctive treatment for depressive episodes in patients with BD.”

phototherapy_1170336

Is the virus racist? In the second selection, we look at a provocative paper from The British Journal of Psychiatry written by Drs. Anuj Kapilashrami and Kamaldeep Bhui (both of Queen Mary University of London). Considering how COVID-19 affects certain groups more than others, they also note that mental illness is more common among minorities, and they argue that: “societal structures and disadvantage generate and can escalate inequalities in crises.” They offer a word of caution: “What is surprising is it takes a crisis to highlight these inequalities and for us to take note, only to revert to the status quo once the crisis is over. ”

Finally, we consider an essay from The New York Times. Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist, discusses her practice in a world of pandemic. “Suddenly, her sobs were drowned out by a loud whooshing sound.” She wonders if the toilet is the new couch.

DG

Continue reading

Reading of the Week: How to Achieve Good Mental Health During Isolation (BJP)? Also, Bipolar Meds (AJP) & Qayyum on the Way to the Morgue (WBUR)

From the Editor

Millions of people are isolating themselves in North America, and across the world. We know that quarantine is linked to mental health problems like depression. So what advice should we be giving our patients – and our family and neighbours?

The first selection seeks to answer this question.

In The British Journal of Psychiatry, Rowan Diamond (of Warneford Hospital) and Dr. John Willan (of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) provide six suggestions, drawing from the literature and taking into account our collective situation. “Dame Vera Lynn, at the age of 103, said of this pandemic that ‘even if we’re isolated in person we can still be united in spirit,’ and the sense of purpose that may be engendered in self-isolation may paradoxically lead to improvements in the mental health of some individuals who may otherwise feel that they have lost their role in society.”

language-2345801_1280Learning is linked to better mental health

How are we managing bipolar affective disorder? In the second selection, we look at a new American Journal of Psychiatry paper by Taeho Greg Rhee (of the University of Connecticut) and his co-authors, who draw on 20 years worth of data. “There has been a substantial increase in the use of second-generation antipsychotics in the outpatient psychiatric management of adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder, accompanied by a decrease in the use of lithium and other mood stabilizers.”

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Zheala Qayyum (of the US Army) considers her time working in New York City during the pandemic. “The first thing that struck me when I stepped into the hospital in Queens was the smell that hung in the air, in these seemingly sterile hospital corridors. It was death and disease.”

DG

Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Should Medical Education Stay in Its Lane? Goldfarb Argues Yes; Also, Problems in Youth (BJP) & Medical Memoirs (Lancet Psych)

From the Editor

What’s the best way of training future doctors?

Medical education has changed much over the years – schools across the country embraced the McMaster model, then cooled to it; efforts have been made to revisit core curriculum topics and add in more timely ones.

In the first selection, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Stanley Goldfarb – a former associate dean of curriculum at the Perelman School of Medicine – bemoans the state of medical education. Controversially, he argues in The Wall Street Journal: “Curricula will increasingly focus on climate change, social inequities, gun violence, bias and other progressive causes only tangentially related to treating illness.”

Is he right? We discuss the essay and responses to the essay.

1021e4bc750bdfd450753733fdc2a86d

In the next selection, we look at a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. Drawing on a large dataset, the University College London’s Jessica Deighton and her co-authors study the rate of psychiatric problems among youths. “Findings reported here indicate the scale of mental health problems in children across many schools in England is much higher than previous estimates…”

And in the third selection, Dr. Linda Gask, a British psychiatrist, considers autobiographies written by physicians. “These stories can, in turn, inspire, impress, inform, engage, and even shock through the sharing of personal conflict and confessions…”

DG

  Continue reading

Reading of the Week: A Statin a Day Keeps the Doctor Away? The New Hayes et al. JAMA Psych Paper

From the Editor

Statins can help prevent MIs in people with high cholesterol. Can they also prevent psychiatric admissions for those with schizophrenia?

The question may seem odd, but there is evidence that statins can reduce symptoms in people with schizophrenia – though the evidence is light. That may not be as surprising as it seems: statins are anti-inflammatories, and a growing literature suggests neuro-inflammation is involved in major mental illness.

So should our patients receive medications like statins? The concept of repurposing common medications has gained attention.

This week, we look at a paper just published in JAMA Psychiatry. In their study, University College London’s Joseph F. Hayes and his co-authors consider the effect of statins, calcium channel blockers, and biguanides (such as metformin). Spoiler alert: they find that these medications reduce psychiatric hospital admissions and self-harm in people with serious mental illness.

statins-understandingthehypeStatins for schizophrenia?

In this Reading, we review the new paper about the not-so-new meds. We also take a quick look at another paper (on ketamine).

DG

Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Weight Loss for People with Schizophrenia? STEPWISE Didn’t Work. On the Big Paper, the Not-So-Big Result & Negative Results

From the Editor

Years ago, I worked with a patient who lost 70 pounds with an aggressive regiment of exercise. His determination was exceptional but his struggles with obesity weren’t. People with schizophrenia are twice as likely as the general population to deal with weight problems.

In the first selection, we consider a paper on weight loss for those with schizophrenia and related illnesses. STEPWISE offered these patients a thoughtful approach to weight management. The paper is remarkable for its finding: the intervention didn’t work. As the University of Southampton’s Dr. Richard I. G. Holt and his co-authors write: “the intervention was neither clinically nor cost-effective over the 12-month intervention period.”

In this Reading, we consider the paper, but also the larger issue of negative trials and their lack of presence in the literature.

bank-failure-lw-schwenk-locWe often read about bank failures; medical study failures, not so much

In the second selection, we draw on a New York Times essay by pediatrician Aaron E. Carroll who calls for the publication of more negative trials. “These actions might make for more boring news and more tempered enthusiasm. But they might also lead to more accurate science.”

DG

  Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Alastair Campbell on his Brother, his Life and his Schizophrenia

From the Editor

“So, my schizophrenia story. Well, the story is mine, but the schizophrenia was Donald’s. He would happily have told you his story himself, for he was very proud of the life he led, given the seriousness of the condition. Sadly, he can’t, as he is dead. So I will tell his story instead.”

Alastair Campbell is many things. He is the author of more than a dozen books. He is a former press secretary and director of communications for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. He is the father of three.

And he’s the brother of a person who had schizophrenia.

In this week’s Reading, we consider his speech for the Schizophrenia International Research Society, “The Shittiest of all the Shitty Illnesses.” He discusses his brother’s illness and its impact on his family – and he also talks about his brother.

stream_imgAlastair Campbell

In this Reading, we consider Campbell’s comments, and also the larger issue of reduced life expectancy for those with severe mental illness.

DG

Continue reading

Reading of the Week: The Pill That Talks to Doctors, & More

From the Editor

The pill. The criticism. The question.

Readings have covered everything from new books to political speeches. This week, we consider a few thought-provoking pieces. Is there a common theme? Maybe this: the world of mental health care is changing – and fast.

In these three selections, we look at: the pill that talks to doctors and family, the criticism of digital health, the question about the true nature of schizophrenia.

Enjoy.

DG

Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Mental Health Care – Doing Bad, Feeling Good? The Hayes et al. Study

From the Editor

Greetings from Ottawa. This morning, the Canadian Psychiatric Association’s 67th Annual Conference opens here. And the agenda looks great, and includes the release of the new Canadian guidelines for the treatment of schizophrenia.

It’s difficult not to feel upbeat, as people from coast to coast to coast gather to discuss new findings and new ideas on problems like refractory depression and chronic pain and, yes, schizophrenia. And this is a great time to be involved in mental health care – as stigma fades and societal recognition grows.

But how are we doing in terms of actual outcomes? This week, we look at a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. Hayes et al. consider mortality for those with severe mental illness and the rest of us. Unfortunately, the authors find that the mortality gap has grown with time.

49472-rideau-canal

Ottawa: Host city of this year’s CPA Annual Conference

In this Reading, we review the paper and an editorial, and consider the larger context.

DG

Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Technology & Psychiatry – Can Virtual Reality Help with Pain? Or Social Anxiety?

From the Editor

VR. e-therapies.

New technology is changing the way we think about the delivery of psychiatric services. But new isn’t necessarily better. Can care really be transformed? What does the literature say?

U.S. President Barack Obama tries virtual reality glasses as he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) tour Hanover Messe Trade Fair in Hanover, Germany April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

VR: more than just a presidential photo op?

In a two-part Reading of the Week series, we look at technology and psychiatry.

This week, Virtual Reality.

Next week, e-therapies.

This week, we consider a new paper that looks at virtual reality to treat pain in hospitalized patients. The authors find that people utilizing VR have less pain as compared to controls. This finding leads us to another recent paper on VR; in this second study, patients with social anxiety are treated with a VR intervention.

DG

Continue reading

Reading of the Week: The Future of Psychiatry – Part II of II

From the Editor

Is mental health becoming too technical (and forgetting patients as a result)?

The future of us clinicians?

This is the second Reading in a two-part series considering the future of mental health – not in terms of distant developments like biomarkers and genetically-tailored drugs – but rather by looking at measurement-based care and the evolution of the field.

Last week, measurement-based care.

This week, the end of the art of care?

This week, we look at an editorial The British Journal of Psychiatry that warns against physicians becoming “well treated skilled workers.”

And, continuing the consideration of ‘the future,’ we also consider a new paper that has received much attention. Can a web-based intervention help with insomnia? Spoiler alert – as The New York Times reported last week, “more than half of chronic insomniacs who used an automated online therapy program reported improvement within weeks and were sleeping normally a year later.”

DG Continue reading