MonthJanuary 2021

Reading of the Week: Alcohol Use, ED Visits & Mortality – the New CMAJ Paper; Also, Dr. Lawrence on Diagnoses and Her Diagnosis (Guardian)

From the Editor:

“He’s here again.”

The staff would roll their eyes. Harold was back. Many of us had encountered him – a person with alcohol use disorder who frequently came to the emergency department of the hospital where I did my internship year. He would usually get a sandwich and a lecture. But what are the outcomes for people like him? And what could be done?

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In the first selection, we consider a new CMAJ paper. Dr. Jennifer Hulme (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors study outcomes for those presenting to Ontario EDs for alcohol-related reasons. The major finding: “The all-cause 1-year mortality rate was 5.4% overall.” We review the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, we look at a new essay by Dr. Rebecca Lawrence from The Guardian. The UK psychiatrist, who has written about her experiences as a mental health patient, notes the challenges of psychiatric diagnoses. “There are many words in the field of mental illness that have been discarded and are now viewed as stigmatising and inappropriate – words such as ‘cretin’, or ‘lunatic’, or ‘mental’. It’s interesting to consider whether our current crop of acceptable words will end up in that category, and it’s salutary to know that many probably will.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Vaccines, Vaccine Hesitation & Mental Illness, with Papers from JAMA Psychiatry and NEJM, and More

From the Editor:

It’s here. Less than a year after COVID-19 arrived in North America, two vaccines have been created, approved, and given (at least to some).

In the coming months, as the supply improves, people – including our patients – will have the opportunity to get a vaccine. But what are the challenges? First, some will hesitate. In a recent essay, Dr. Nadia Alam notes that: “Vaccine hesitancy is a significant issue with only 57.5% of Canadians saying they are very likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19.” And special populations will present further challenges – such as those with major mental illness.

This week, we focus on vaccinations with two papers and an article.

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In the first selection, drawing from JAMA Psychiatry, we consider a paper by Dr. Nicola Warren (of the University of Queensland) and her co-authors. They note the challenges of reaching people with serious mental illness – just one in four get a flu vaccine. “It is vital to commence planning and development of appropriate policies to ensure rapid delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.”

In a New England Journal of Medicine paper, Dr. Joshua A. Barocas (of the Boston University School of Medicine) thinks about the needs of those with substance use disorders. “Officials devising vaccination strategies and allocation plans would be wise to do so from the perspective of the virus, rather than that of stigmatizing personal beliefs.”

How to speak to our patients? In the final selection, we look at a short piece by Dr. Joshua C. Morganstein (of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences).  His advice is very practical, and emphasizes that we should tailor our approach not by diagnosis but by patient interest in the vaccination. He also urges us to be careful in our choice of language: “Health care professionals are trained to use complex medical terminology, though more understandable and down-to-earth language often serves to enhance trust and build rapport.”

DG
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Reading of the Week: The Best of 2020

From the Editor 

It’s a Reading of the Week tradition to begin the new year by reviewing the best of the past one. And so, today, we look back at the selections from the previous 12 months.

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2020 was tough, dominated by the pandemic.

The selections aren’t all about COVID-19, however. Papers shed light on the pandemic, yes, but much research helped further our understanding of mental health, relevant in the world that pre-dated the pandemic, and the world after the pandemic.

Looking over the past year of Readings, I would like to make two observations.

First, about the literature: the overall quality of scholarship remains high. As has been the case year after year, I liked the papers highlighted in this series – but also realize that many more papers could have been picked. Psychiatry continues to grow more sophisticated with each passing year.

Second, about the pandemic: COVID is understood to be a threat to physical health, but also to mental health. As a person with a few grey hairs, I remember SARS well. Mental health wasn’t discussed during that viral outbreak. The public dialogue has changed much in these past 17 years. While I wish more attention were paid to mental health and COVID, there have been national and provincial announcements on the topic, and much media attention too. #Progress

DG

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