MonthSeptember 2022

Reading of the Week: Psychiatrists & Patient Suicide – the New CJP Paper; Brain Wellness Spas (JAMA Psych) and Dr. Heidari on Her Mantra (NEJM)

From the Editor

It’s the call we dread, perhaps from a relative or the family doctor. The news catches us by surprise: the patient has died and suicide is suspected.

In the first selection from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Zainab Furqan (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors consider psychiatrists’ experiences with patients who die by suicide. In this qualitative analysis drawing on 17 interviews, they explore the emotional response. They conclude: “patient suicide is often associated with grief, shock, anxiety and guilt; emotions which are mediated by physician, patient, relational and institutional factors and have important ramifications on psychiatrists’ well-being and clinical practice.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In this week’s second selection, Anna Wexler and Dominic Sisti (both of the University of Pennsylvania) write about the potential and problems of off-label use for psychedelic drugs in light of likely FDA approval. In a JAMA PsychiatryViewpoint, they note: “With high public enthusiasm, extremely bullish investors, and hundreds of newly established brain wellness clinics, all the pieces are now in place for expansive off-label promotion and use of psychedelics to quickly mushroom beyond what is safe.”

Finally, in the third selection from The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Shireen N. Heidari (of Stanford University) notes the incredible challenges of working during the pandemic – and the psychological toll. She describes her decision to seek care and her own recovery: “A year after making the decision to talk to my family and my doctor, I know that advocating for my own mental health was the best decision I could have made.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: African Nova Scotian Youth & Stigma; Also, Engaging Health Care Workers (Psych Services) and Therapy & Psychiatry (Psych Times)

From the Editor

Many with mental disorders don’t engage in psychiatric care or, if they do, it is after significant delays – problematic for obvious reasons. Some groups are less likely to engage, including young Black individuals with psychosis.

Why the hesitation? What are the concerns of these patients and their larger communities? In the first selection, a paper just published by the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Ingrid Waldron (of McMaster University) and her co-authors take a qualitative interpretive narrative approach, to engage African Nova Scotians – including those in a first episode psychosis program – attempting to answer these questions and more. Among their key findings: “barriers include a lack of trust in health care services and a dearth of African Nova Scotian service providers.” We discuss the paper and its implications.

In this week’s second selection, Dr. Doron Amsalem (of Columbia University) and his co-authors aim to improve health care workers treatment seeking; in a paper for Psychiatric Services, they describe an RCT for a brief video intervention, finding positive results. They write: “This easily administered intervention could increase the likelihood of care seeking by proactively encouraging health care workers with mental health challenges to pursue treatment.”

Finally, in the third selection, Mark L. Ruffalo (of the University of Central Florida College of Medicine) and Dr. Daniel Morehead (of the Tufts Medical Center) consider psychotherapy and psychiatry. In an essay for Psychiatric Times, they argue that this is “the great divorce that never happened.” They write: “For decades, critics and leading psychiatrists have worried that psychotherapy among psychiatrists will one day die out and be forgotten. Yet for decades, reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Health Care Workers’ Mental Health – There’s an App for That; Also, Treating Opioids (BMJ) & Dr. Bhushan on Her Bipolar (LA Times)

From the Editor

With the pandemic dragging on, health care workers report more and more burnout; some complain of depression and anxiety.

What could help? Dr. Sam N. Gnanapragasam (of King’s College London) and his co-authors consider an app designed to provide CBT and mindfulness techniques in a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. The RCT study involves 16 English sites with over 1000 health care workers. They conclude: “our study suggests that the app was of modest benefit with no adverse effects for a sample of HCWs in England.” We look at the paper.

How to respond to the opioid crisis? In a new analysis paper for BMJ, Dr. Robert A. Kleinman (of the University of Toronto) and his colleagues argue for a different approach to the prescribing of opioid agonist therapy, drawing on the changes made in response to the pandemic. “Embracing a more flexible model of buprenorphine-naloxone dosing would allow better alignment of prescribing practices with the needs and preferences of clients.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Devika Bhushan writes about bipolar disorder for the Los Angeles Times. The essay is very personal: the pediatrician, who serves as California’s acting surgeon general and graduated from Harvard, describes her own experiences. As she notes, during her training, she “had a secret.” Now, however, she speaks openly about her illness. “Today, I live with bipolar disorder as a chronic and manageable health condition.” 

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis Potency & Mental Health – the New Lancet Psych Paper; Also, Legalization & Poisonings (NEJM) and Nicholson on Her Son (CBC)

From the Editor

“In the USA and Europe, the concentration of THC has more than doubled over the past 10 years…”

So notes a new paper in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Canada legalized cannabis for recreational purposes four years ago; other countries have done the same, as have almost two dozen US states. But how has cannabis itself changed over time? What are the implications for mental health disorders? And public policy? In the first selection, quoted above, Kat Petrilli (of the University of Bath) and her co-authors do a systematic review of cannabis potency and mental health and attempt to answer these questions. Drawing on 20 studies, they find: “Overall, the evidence suggests that the use of higher potency cannabis, compared with lower potency cannabis, is associated with an increased risk of psychosis, and this risk is higher in people who use cannabis daily.” We look at the paper and weigh its clinical implications.

In the second selection, using Ontario data, Dr. Daniel T. Myran (of the University of Ottawa) and his co-authors consider the effect of edible cannabis legalization on poisonings of children. Writing for The New England Journal of Medicine, they compare jurisdictions with legal sales (Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario) with a province that hasn’t legalized that form of cannabis (Quebec). “Our data indicate that legalization was associated with marked increases in hospitalizations for cannabis poisoning in children.”

And, in the third selection, Shirley Nicholson writes about substance and stigma with a deeply personal essay. In this piece for CBC First Person, she discusses her son’s struggles and his death from an overdose. She writes: “He didn’t plan to die at 27. He was more than his addictions. He was our son, our brother, our grandson, our nephew, our cousin and we all loved him so.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: After COVID – the New Lancet Psychiatry Paper; Also, Clark on Therapy (QT) and Physicians, Heal Thyselves (JAMA Net Open)

From the Editor

The first reported cases were almost three years ago. Yet, with this pandemic, many questions remain. No wonder. The patient experience is so varied. Some of our patients complain of time-limited, mild symptoms. Others seem affected by ongoing, non-physical symptoms. And many haven’t had any symptoms.

How common are neurological and psychiatric problems? Do they last? Are they less common with newer variants? This week, in the first selection, we consider a new Lancet Psychiatry paper; Max Taquet (of the University of Oxford) and his co-authors try to answer these questions and others. Drawing on the health records of almost 1.3 million people with a recorded diagnosis of COVID-19 and focusing on 14 different outcomes (including anxiety and mood disorders) across eight nations, they find: “post-COVID neurological and psychiatric outcomes followed different risk trajectories: the risk of cognitive deficit, dementia, psychotic disorder, and epilepsy or seizures remained increased at 2 years after a COVID-19 diagnosis, while the risks of other diagnoses (notably, mood and anxiety disorders) subsided early and showed no overall excess over the 2-year follow-up.” We look at the paper and its clinical implications.

In this week’s second selection, we consider a new Quick Takes podcast interview with David Clark (of the University of Oxford). Prof. Clark speaks about IAPT, the UK’s program to expand access to psychotherapy, which he co-founded. “We’ve still got some distance to go, though, but the IAPT services are seeing about a million people a year who wouldn’t have previously had psychological therapy.”

Primary care has an essential role in our health care system. In the third selection, Emily Rhodes (of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute) and her co-authors mull physicians and their personal connection to primary care in a new JAMA Network Open paper. They find: physicians are less likely to be rostered with family docs, and less likely to visit them. They conclude: “Emphasis on the importance and improvement of access to primary care for physicians is a potential means to improve overall health for physicians and patients.”

DG

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