Reading of the Week: Global Burden of Schizophrenia – the new Molecular Psych Study; Also, MedEd’s Evolution & Saxbe on Helping Depressed Teens

From the Editor

Is there more mental illness than before? Or is there greater awareness? 

Dr. Marco Solmi (of the University of Ottawa) and his co-authors attempt to answer these questions in a new paper for Molecular Psychiatry that focuses on schizophrenia. Drawing on 30 years of data globally, they consider prevalence (how many have the illness), incidence (the number who develop it each year), and the disability-adjusted life-years (the loss of one healthy year of life) using more than 86 000 points of data. They find: “Globally, we show that, from 1990 to 2019, raw prevalence increased by over 65%, incidence by 37.11%, DALYs by over 65%, but age-adjusted prevalence and incidence estimates showed a slight decrease, and burden did not change.” We consider the paper and its implications.

Textbooks, highlighters, and classrooms? The world of medical education is changing. Today, we have AI, sim, and e-learning. In the second selection, we look at the new Quick Takes podcast with Dr. Ivan Silver (of the University of Toronto), former vice president of education at CAMH who marvels at the potential. “This is the renaissance period for health professional education.” 

And in the third selection, psychologist Darby Saxbe (of the University of Southern California) writes in The New York Times about ways to help depressed adolescents. Drawing on recent studies showing the failure of school-based psychosocial interventions, she argues for a different approach. “It’s critical to keep pace with the evidence and attend to the first principle of all health care providers: First, do no harm.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Catatonia – the new NEJM Review; CBD for Bipolar and Dr. Samuels on Medical Assistance in Dying

From the Editor

Catatonia has been well described but is poorly understood.

So write Drs. Stephan Heckers and Sebastian Walther (both of Vanderbilt University) in a new review. We could add: catatonia is often striking. I remember a patient who literally sat for hours in his chair with catatonia secondary to schizophrenia. His family, in some denial, had insisted that his poor eating was related to hospital food and that his lack of activity had to do with the boredom of the ward.

Drs. Heckers and Walther’s review, just published in The New England Journal of Medicine, notes: “Catatonia is common in psychiatric emergency rooms and inpatient units,” with an estimated prevalence of 9% to 30%. They describe the diagnosis and treatment. We consider the paper and its implications.

Waxy flexibility (from catatonia) in an undated photo

Interest in CBD has surged in recent years. Can it help with the tough clinical problem of bipolar depression? In the second selection, Dr. Jairo Vinícius Pinto (of the University of São Paulo) and his co-authors attempt to answer that question in a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper. They describe a pilot study, with 35 patients randomized to CBD or placebo, finding: “cannabidiol did not show significantly higher adverse effects than placebo.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Hannah Samuels (of the University of Toronto) discusses medical assistance in dying in a paper for Academic Psychiatry. This resident of psychiatry describes a patient who, dealing with pain, opted for MAiD. Dr. Samuels considers the decision but her ambivalence in part stemming from her training. “I felt sad, confused, and morally conflicted. Mrs. L never faltered in her confidence that this was the right decision for her, but I could not understand it.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: MAiD, Suicide & the Patient-Family Perspective – the new CJP Paper; Also, AI & Misinformation, and Palus on Mental Health Merch 

From the Editor

In March, medical assistance in dying will be expanded in Canada to include those with mental illness. Not surprisingly, many people feel strongly about it, with some seeing the change as a natural extension of basic rights and others arguing that it will be a profound mistake. 

What do patients and family members think? How does it relate to their views of suicide in general? Lisa Hawke (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors attempt to answer these questions in a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper. They do a qualitative analysis, interviewing 30 people with mental illness and 25 family members on medical assistance in dying when the sole underlying medical condition is mental illness (or MAiD MI-SUMC). “Participants acknowledge the intersections between MAiD MI-SUMC and suicidality and the benefits of MAiD MI-SUMC as a more dignified way of ending suffering, but also the inherent complexity of considering [such] requests in the context of suicidality.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Scott Monteith (of Michigan State University) and his co-authors write about artificial intelligence and misinformation in a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. They note the shift in AI – from predictive models to generative AI – and its implications for patients. “Misinformation created by generative AI about mental illness may include factual errors, nonsense, fabricated sources and dangerous advice.”

And in the third selection, writer Shannon Palus discusses the rise of “mental health merch” – clothing items and other merchandise that tout mental health problems, including a pricey sweatshirt with “Lexapro” written on the front (the US brand name for escitalopram). In Slate, Palus discusses her coolness to such things. “As a person who struggles with her own mental health, as a Lexapro taker – well, I hate this trend, honestly! I find it cloying and infantilizing.”

Note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Self-stigma & Depression – the new JAD Study; Also, ChatGPT & Mental Health Care, and Dr. Catherine Hickey on the Opioid Crisis

From the Editor 

Depression is the result of character weakness. So explained my patient who had a major depressive disorder and hesitated to take medications.

Though fading, stigma about mental illness continues to exist, including self-stigma, the negative thoughts and beliefs that patients have about their own disease – as with my patient. How common is self-stigma? How does its prevalence differ around the globe? What are risk factors for it? Nan Du (of the University of Hong Kong) and co-authors attempt to answer these questions in a new Journal of Affective Disorders paper. They do a systematic review and meta-analysis of self-stigma for people with depression, drawing on 56 studies with almost 12 000 participants, and they a focus on international comparisons. “The results showed that the global prevalence of depression self-stigma was 29%. Levels of self-stigma varied across regions, but this difference was not significant.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In this week’s second selection, we look at ChatGPT and mental health care. Dr. John Torous (of Harvard University) joins me for a Quick Takes podcast interview. He sees potential for patients – including making clinical notes more accessible by bridging language and knowledge divides – and for physicians, who may benefit from a more holistic differential diagnosis and treatment plan based on multiple data sets. He acknowledges problems with privacy, accuracy, and ChatGPT’s tendency to “hallucinate,” a term he dislikes. “We want to really be cautious because these are complex pieces of software.” 

And in the third selection, Dr. Catherine Hickey (of Memorial University) writes about the opioid crisis for Academic Psychiatry. The paper opens personally, with Dr. Hickey describing paramedics trying to help a young man who had overdosed. She considers the role of psychiatry and contemplates societal biases. “[I]n a better world, the needless deaths of countless young people would never be tolerated, regardless of their skin color.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Running vs SSRIs for Depression – the new JAD Paper; Also, Climate Change & Mental Health, and Understanding My Schizophrenia

From the Editor

“Go for a Run to Beat Depression – It’s Just As Effective As Taking Medication”

– New York Post

“Running could be just as effective at treating depression as medication, scientists find”

– The Independent

Patients often ask what they can do to get better from their depression. Should we be advising them to put on a pair of runners and go for a jog? A new paper published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to suggest as much – and it’s caused a bit of media buzz. In the first selection, Josine E. Verhoeven (of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and her co-authors describe this 16-week study that offered 141 people with depression and/or anxiety either a running intervention or medications, and looked at several mental and physical health outcomes. “We showed that while antidepressant medication and running therapy did not statistically significantly differ on mental health outcomes… the interventions had a significantly different and often contrasting impact on several physical health outcomes, with more favorable outcomes for those in the exercise intervention.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Pim Cuijpers (of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and his co-authors discuss climate change and mental health in a new viewpoint for JAMA Psychiatry. Though they note the lack of high-quality research in the area, they argue that it would disproportionately affect low and middle-income nations. They then point a way forward. “There is no doubt that climate change will have a major impact on mental health in the coming decades.”

And in the third selection which is written anonymously, a person with schizophrenia talks about his experiences in a paper for Schizophrenia Bulletin. He tries to empower himself, working to limit side effects and cope with the voices. “My brain disease is incurable, but it is not an excuse for me to be irresponsible or to give up on life.” 

DG

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Reading of the Week: Legal Cannabis at 5 – Considering Nonmedical Legalization with a CMAJ Commentary, Dr. Buckley’s Reflections and Major Papers

From the Editor

On Oct. 17, 2018, the government of Canada will launch a national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians. When Bill C-45 comes into force in mid-October, access to recreational marijuana will be legal, making Canada one of a handful of countries to legalize recreational use of the drug. Given the known and unknown health hazards of cannabis, any increase in use of recreational cannabis after legalization, whether by adults or youth, should be viewed as a failure of this legislation.

 – Dr. Diane Kelsall, Editor-in-Chief, CMAJ, October 2018

On Tuesday, Canada’s experiment with the legalization of cannabis for nonmedical purposes turned five. Did use go up? What about health care utilization? Have there been benefits from justice and social justice perspectives? Is it the failure that Dr. Kelsall feared?

Now is a good time to pause and review the impact of this change. In this Reading, we try to do just that. 

We start with a CMAJ commentary just published. Benedikt Fischer (of Simon Fraser University) and co-authors look at the evidence, including studies on use and ED presentations, as well as statistics on purchases. “A consideration of the evidence 5 years after implementation suggests that success in meeting policy objectives has been mixed, with social justice benefits appearing to be more tangibly substantive than health benefits.”

Dr. Leslie Buckley (of the University of Toronto) mulls this moment with some comments about the CMAJ paper, and the larger discussion. “[T]he legal changes were enacted and resulted in positive outcomes while the preventive changes which would require more financial investment and tight regulation received less attention.”

Finally, we look at three important papers on cannabis that have been featured in this series over the past five years, and another one that we haven’t looked at before.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Health Care Workers & Suicide – the new JAMA Paper; Also, Esketamine vs Quetiapine for Treatment-Resistant Depression (NEJM)

From the Editor

Sure, we are biased – but ours is a different type of job. Working in health care can involve life and death situations and trying to help those who are at their most vulnerable. The stakes can be high. 

But how does such work affect the workers themselves? Dr. Mark Olfson (of Columbia University) and his co-authors try to answer that question in a new paper for JAMA. In it, they analyze suicides among six different types of health care workers, including physicians, by drawing on a US data that offers a nationally representative sample from 2008 to 2019, including 1.84 million people. “Relative to non-health care workers, registered nurses, health technicians, and health care support workers in the US were at increased risk of suicide.” We consider the paper and its implications.

And in the other selection, Dr. Andreas Reif (of the University Hospital Frankfurt) and his co-authors focus on treatment-resistant depression. In this new paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine, they report on the findings from a study where 676 patients were randomized to either esketamine nasal spray or an antipsychotic augmenting agent in addition to an antidepressant. “In patients with treatment-resistant depression, esketamine nasal spray plus an SSRI or SNRI was superior to extended-release quetiapine plus an SSRI or SNRI with respect to remission at week 8.” We also look at the accompanying editorial.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Fatal Overdoses & Drug Decriminalization – the new JAMA Psych Paper; Also, ChatGPT vs Residents, and Chang on Good Psychiatry

From the Editor

Does decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of street drugs reduce overdoses? Proponents argue yes because those who use substances can seek care – including in emergency situations – without fear of police involvement and charges. Opponents counter that decriminalization means fewer penalties for drug use, resulting in more misuse and thus more overdoses. The debate can be shrill – but lacking in data.

Spruha Joshi (of New York University) and co-authors bring numbers to the policy discussion with a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. They analyze the impact of decriminalization in two states, Oregon and Washington, contrasting overdoses there and in other US states that didn’t decriminalize. “This study found no evidence of an association between legal changes that removed or substantially reduced criminal penalties for drug possession in Oregon and Washington and fatal drug overdose rates.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Ashwin Nayak (of Stanford University) and his co-authors look at AI for the writing of patient histories. In a new research letter for JAMA Internal Medicine, they do a head-to-head (head-to-CPU?) comparison with ChatGPT and residents both writing patient histories (specifically, the history of present illness, or HPI). “HPIs generated by a chatbot or written by senior internal medicine residents were graded similarly by internal medicine attending physicians.”

And in the third selection, medical student Howard A. Chang (of Johns Hopkins University) wonders about “good” psychiatry in a paper for Academic Psychiatry. He reflects on the comments of surgeons, pediatricians, and obstetricians, and then mulls the role of our specialty. “I have gleaned that a good psychiatrist fundamentally sees and cares about patients with mental illness as dignified human beings, not broken brains. The good psychiatrist knows and treats the person in order to treat the disease.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: DBT for Youth with Bipolar – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Involuntary Care and Dr. Gibbons on the Truths About Suicide

From the Editor

Nine! 

This month, the Reading of the Week celebrates a big birthday, its ninth. The first Reading was emailed out in September 2014. Many thanks for your ongoing interest and support. I’m looking forward to the next nine years.

Many young people with bipolar attempt suicide. What can be done to help them? In the first selection, Tina R. Goldstein (of the University of Pittsburgh) and her co-authors attempt to answer that question in a just-published JAMA Psychiatry paper. In their RCT involving youth with bipolar spectrum disorder, participants were enrolled in DBT or they received standard-of-care psychological support. “These findings support DBT as the first psychosocial intervention with demonstrated effects on suicidal behavior for adolescents with bipolar spectrum disorder.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, journalist and bestselling author Anna Mehler Paperny discusses coercive care in a new Quick Takes podcast interview. Mehler Paperny’s perspective on involuntary care is informed by her writing on the issue – and her lived experience. She worries that public debate may be driven by a desire to address public disorder rather than genuinely prioritizing the well-being of those with mental illness. “Coercive care is having a moment.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Rachel Gibbons (of the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists) considers suicide in a new BJPsych Bulletin paper. She opens by disclosing that three of her patients died by suicide early in her career. She then reviews “truths” about suicide. “In research we conducted, around two-thirds of psychiatrists and other clinicians felt it was their job to predict suicide. Our fantasy that we can do this, and our fear that we can’t, becomes a constant preoccupation in our work, distracts us from providing therapeutic care and closes our hearts to those in distress.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Telepsych vs. In-Person Treatment – the new BJP Paper; Also, Rethinking Palliative Care in Psychiatry and Kemp on His Depression

From the Editor

When the pandemic started in 2020, the webcam sitting on my desk had barely been used. Of course, over the following days, it became an indispensable part of my outpatient practice as terms like “lockdown” and “Zoom fatigue” entered the common lexicon. 

As we move past the pandemic, questions arise. Who benefits from telepsychiatry? And who is better served with in-person visits? Katsuhiko Hagi (of the Sumitomo Pharma Co.) and co-authors attempt to answer these questions with a new systematic review and meta-analysis, just published in The British Journal of Psychiatry. They analyzed 32 papers, involving 3 600 people, across 11 mental illnesses. “Telepsychiatry achieved a symptom improvement effect for various psychiatric disorders similar to that of face-to-face treatment. However, some superiorities/inferiorities were seen across a few specific psychiatric disorders, suggesting that its efficacy may vary according to disease type.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Kwok Ying Chan (of Grantham Hospital) and his co-authors discuss palliative care. In a Viewpoint paper for JAMA Psychiatry, they note that some patients with severe mental illness could benefit from palliative care – yet such care is less available to those with mental disorders than the general population. They highlight challenges and then outline “a more sustainable model for the collaboration between palliative care and psychiatric teams.”

And in the third selection, health care executive Joe Kemp writes about his struggles with suicidal thoughts and substance misuse. In a deeply personal essay for the New York Post, he talks about turning around his life. “I can’t deny my drug-addled past, or that I’m a survivor of two suicide attempts. But I can proudly show the man I am today as someone who has dignity and self-respect; I’ve acquired the most important things to live a happy life. I just followed a different path to get here.”

DG

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