Reading of the Week: Can We Prevent Depression in Older Adults? The New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Homeless Youth and Mental Health (CJP)

From the Editor

It’s disabling and difficult to treat.

Can we prevent depression in older adults? Prevention is, of course, an important goal for any psychiatric disorder, reducing distress and health care costs. And the morbidity of major depressive disorder is great. A patient recently commented on his depressive episode: “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

Dr. Michael R. Irwin (of the University of California, Los Angeles) and his co-authors offer interesting data in a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. Focused on elderly adults with insomnia, they provided a form of CBT in an RCT. They find: “In this trial of older adults without depression but with insomnia disorder, delivery of CBT-I prevented incident and recurrent major depressive disorder by more than 50% compared with SET, an active comparator.” We review this big paper and its clinical implications.

unknownLess time with depression, more time for dancing

In the other selection, we consider homeless youth. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, Sean A. Kidd (of the University of Toronto) et al. draw on national survey data. “Youth homelessness is a wicked social problem with variable definitions, multiple determinants, corollaries, and outcomes.” They note the connection to sexual violence and make policy recommendations.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Lithium – Anti-Suicidal Qualities? Also, Dr. Tim Graham on His Illness & Recovery (CMAJ)

From the Editor

Our patients complain about the hand tremor. Some feel fatigued when they take this medication. And toxicity is always a risk.

Lithium, in other words, is tough to work with – the Callas or Pavarotti of psychotropic medications, if you will. And yet, it’s arguably the best mood stabilizer, helping people with bipolar get back their lives. Some have gone so far as to claim that all of us should take a little lithium.

Among the purported benefits of lithium: anti-suicidal effects. But does this medication really help our suicidal patients? In a new paper, Dr. Ira R. Katz (of the University of Pennsylvania) and his co-authors ask this question, armed with an impressive dataset. In a JAMA Psychiatry paper, they report the findings of a double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. “The addition of lithium to usual Veterans Affairs mental health care did not reduce the incidence of suicide-related events in veterans with major depression or bipolar disorders who experienced a recent suicide event.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

photo-1567693528052-e213227086bbLithium: the psychotropic that’s as old as the earth

In the second selection, Dr. Tim Graham (of the University of Alberta) writes about his training and work as an ED physician, and his burnout. In a raw, highly personal essay for CMAJ, he speaks about his suicidal thoughts – and the decision to get help. He writes: “If you die tomorrow, your employer will replace you, but your loved ones cannot.” Dr. Graham also offers some practical suggestions for staying well.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Plant-based Medicines – What’s the Evidence? Also, Wearables, New Technologies & Mental Health Care (Quick Takes)

From the Editor

Kava. Ginkgo. St John’s wort.

These plant-based medicines (or phytoceuticals) have gained popularity in recent years. Patients ask about them; in some pharmacies, they are now sold prominently and side by side with other products; celebrities talk up their helpfulness. Plant-based medicines are having a moment.

But what’s the evidence? In the first selection, Jerome Sarris (of the Western Sydney University) and his co-authors consider phytoceuticals for psychiatric disorders in a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper. They draw on meta-analyses of RCTs reporting on the efficacy and effectiveness of these medicines. What did they find? “This ‘meta-synthesis’ of the data from 9 meta-analyses showed positive findings for a variety of plant-based medicines in a range of psychiatric disorders, albeit limited by the quality of source data.” We consider the big paper and its clinical implications.

6900b40570a828ff1775d282eb2605e6St. John’s wort – pretty flower, but evidenced?

In this week’s second selection, we look at wearables and new technologies. Dr. John Torous (of Harvard University) joins me for a Quick Takes podcast interview. We discuss their potential for mental health care including how data captured on devices (especially data related to sleep and exercise) can potentially improve care – and overall health. “Could we be using the step count on a patient’s phone for mental health? Could we transform GPS into something like studying green space to learn about its impact on mental health?” And, yes, we do talk about Star Wars.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Dr. Ari Zaretsky on the Life & Legacy of Dr. Aaron Beck

From the Editor 

The fourth child of Russian Jewish immigrants. A Yale medicine graduate. A snappy dresser who loved bow ties.  

Dr. Aaron Beck, who died last week at the age of 100, was also a psychiatrist who significantly changed the way we treat patients and learn to treat themToday, millions have broken the shackles of mood and anxiety problems by using cognitive behavioural therapy; residents of psychiatry learn about the Beck’s Cognitive Triad as a core part of their training.  

aaron_beck_2016Dr. Aaron Beck 

I asked Dr. Ari Zaretskythe Psychiatrist-in-Chief and Vice President Education of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, to write about him – his work and legacy. In his essay, Dr. Zaretsky notes: His life story is that of a former psychoanalyst who rejected the dogmatism of mainstream Freudian psychoanalysis during the 1950s and 1960s and in doing so permanently changed the paradigm and transformed psychotherapy.” 

For those who wish to read more about Dr. Beck, I’ve included links, including to The New York Times obituary.  

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Reading of the Week: Measurement-based Care – What’s the Evidence? Also, Goldbloom on the Joy of Jabbing

From the Editor

Well, he looks better.

So often our conversations about patients – in our emergency rooms, wards, and clinics – focus on soft evidence of improvement. No wonder: psychiatry lacks biomarkers. And so, while our colleagues in medicine talk about blood sugars and white blood cell counts, we often discuss other things, like how our patients look and sound.

The promise of measurement-based care: objective evidence of change (or lack thereof). The idea is having a moment, with more and more interest. But what does the literature say?

In the first selection, Maria Zhu (of the University of British Columbia) and her colleagues consider RCTs. In a systematic review and meta-analysis, they look at the efficacy of measurement-based care for depressive disorders. They conclude: “Although benefits for clinical response are unclear, MBC is effective in decreasing depression severity, promoting remission, and improving medication adherence in patients with depressive disorders treated with pharmacotherapy. The results are limited by the small number of included trials, high risk of bias, and significant study heterogeneity.” We discuss the big paper.

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The pandemic has changed much with day-to-day practice, including with the rapid virtualization of mental health care. Remember a time when you didn’t need to talk about “being on mute?” And some psychiatrists have been on the front lines of the vaccine effort. In the second selection, Dr. David Goldbloom (of the University of Toronto) writes about his experiences working in a vaccine clinic. His Toronto Lifeessay details the YouTube video he watched to remind himself of how to administer shots, his family ties to vaccinations, and his fondness for the work. “I will always be grateful to have experienced the joy of jabbing.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Clozapine Prescribing & Demographics; Also, HBR on Equity in Telemedicine, and Eichler on Her Uncle & His Disappearances

From the Editor

Is clozapine prescribing effected by demographics?

In the first selection, from Psychiatric Services, Natalie Bareis (of Columbia University) and her co-authors consider medication prescriptions for those with psychotic disorders, drawing on US Medicaid data. “Our results indicate significant variation across states and among racial-ethnic groups in prescription patterns of six types of psychotropic medications, even after we had adjusted for multiple patient factors.” Indeed, they find that clozapine is much more commonly prescribed for those who are White. We consider the paper and its implications.

unknownClozapine: a simple molecule but complicated availability in the US?

In the second selection, Dr. Jonathan Rogg (of the University of Texas) and his co-authors consider equity and telemedicine. In a paper for the Harvard Business Review, they describe the services offered in a low-income area of Texas, and the lessons learned. “The Covid-19 pandemic has forced a rapid evolution in technology with the potential to help the most disadvantaged patients. Our experience during the pandemic has demonstrated that telemedicine can overcome access-related challenges faced by indigent populations. By allowing them to access care in their homes or even their jobs, it can help them address health issues expeditiously with minimal disruption to their lives.”

Finally, in the third selection from The Globe and Mail, writer Leah Eichler writes about her uncle, who probably had an undiagnosed mental illness. She writes about his disappearances and erratic behaviour. “We like to believe our relationships are solid, that love is somehow inextricably linked to permanence. Missing our loved ones, if anything, highlights how impermanent even our closest relationships can be.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Should Patients Quit Antidepressants? The New NEJM Paper; Also, the NYT Obit on Dr. Paula Clayton

From the Editor

“Can I stop my antidepressants now?”

Patients often ask that question after feeling better. Studies have looked at relapse for people with depression who go off their medications, of course, but overwhelmingly such work has focused on patients recruited from specialty care (who are, perhaps, more ill).

In the first selection, we consider a new paper from The New England Journal of Medicine by Gemma Lewis (of University College) et al. The patients have been recruited from English family practices. The study is well designed and thoughtful, adding nicely to the literature. The chief finding? “Those who were assigned to stop their medication had a higher risk of relapse of depression by 52 weeks than those who were assigned to maintain their current therapy.” We consider the big paper and its clinical implications.

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In the second selection, drawing from the pages of The New York Times, reporter Clay Risen writes about the life of Dr. Paula J. Clayton. This psychiatrist, who passed in September, was an accomplished researcher: “Dr. Clayton was part of a generation of clinical psychiatrists who, in the decades after World War II, revolutionized their field by applying medical rigor to the diagnosis of mental illness.” In later years, she was a strong advocate for those with mental illness.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Vaccinations & Mental Disorders; Also, Nudging Patients (Psych Services)

From the Editor

By international standards, we are doing well. As a percentage of the population, more Canadians are doubly vaccinated than people in many other nations.

But let’s not be too pleased. Some Canadians haven’t received both shots – or even one. As is often the case with public health efforts (think smoking cessation and flu shots), those with mental disorders are harder to reach than the general population.

This week, there are two selections. In the first, Noel T. Brewer (of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Neetu Abad (of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) discuss ways that we can boost the rate of vaccination of those with mental health problems in a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. They recognize the unique challenges of reaching this population – and the clear opportunities for mental health professionals. “Although mental health is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about vaccination, strategic use of mental health professionals’ expertise could provide new opportunities to encourage COVID-19 vaccination.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

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In the second selection, also on the theme of nudging our patients to get better outcomes, Gabriela K. Khazanov (of Veterans Affairs) and her co-authors consider using behavioural economics. In this Psychiatric Services paper, they note that Veterans Affairs (VA) “has successfully implemented a financial incentive program aimed at improving psychiatric treatment engagement…”

DG
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Reading of the Week: High Tech and Low Tech Opportunities for Mental Health Care

From the Editor

Social media. Bots. VR.

When I applied to psychiatry residency programs in my last year of medical school at the University of Manitoba, none of these were mentioned when we talked about mental health care. But technology is changing our world. We are seeing a digital boom in mental health care – or is it really a digital mirage?

In the first selection, we move past the big rhetoric with a thoughtful paper by Dr. John Torous (of Harvard University) and his co-authors. In World Psychiatry, they review the literature and make insightful comments about the potential and reality of digital mental health care. “It now seems inevitable that digital technologies will change the face of mental health research and treatment.” We discuss the paper and its implications.

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Woebot: Too cool to be clinical?

If the first selection considers cutting-edge technology for bettering patient care, the second is very different. Dr. Thomas E. Smith (of Columbia University) and his co-authors study “the strength of associations between scheduling aftercare appointments during routine psychiatric inpatient discharge planning and postdischarge follow-up care varied by level of patient engagement in outpatient psychiatric care before hospital admission” in a paper for Psychiatric Services. Spoiler alert: there are no chatbots mentioned. “Discharge planning activities, such as scheduling follow-up appointments, increase the likelihood of patients successfully transitioning to outpatient care, regardless of their level of engagement in care prior to psychiatric inpatient admission.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicidal Ideation in a 37-Year-Old Woman – A NEJM Case; Also, Goldbloom on Innovation (QT) and Purdy on Her Brother (CMAJ)

From the Editor

She presents with suicidal thoughts and had a challenging course with COVID-19.

She could be a patient in your afternoon clinic. In fact, she was seen and treated at Massachusetts General Hospital. And her case was discussed at psychiatry grand rounds, and then written up for The New England Journal of Medicine.

In our first selection, Dr. Carol S. North (of the University of Texas Southwestern) and her co-authors consider this patient’s story. They detail her history and course in hospital. They also note the complexities: “This case highlights the importance of attending to the intricate, multilevel, systemic factors that affect the mental health experience and clinical presentation of patients, especially among patients such as this one, who identified as Latina.”

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Dr. David Goldbloom (of the University of Toronto) joins me for a Quick Takes podcast interview. We discuss his new book about innovations in mental health care. “I wrote the book because like so many people who work in our profession, so many people who are on the receiving end of care, and for the families who support those individuals, there is a shared sense that the status quo isn’t good enough.”

In the third selection, Dr. Kaylynn Purdy (of the University of Alberta), a resident of neurology, writes about her brother and his illness in the pages of the CMAJ. He develops schizophrenia and becomes homeless in Vancouver. She talks about his life and death. “When you meet somebody living on the streets, remember my brother.”

DG

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