Month: June 2024

Reading of the Week: Cancer & Suicide & Good News – the New Transl Psychiatry Study; Also, AI & Therapy Dropouts, and Bland on Her Father & His D-Day

From the Editor

He was so overwhelmed by the cancer diagnosis that he didn’t eat or sleep for days. “It was my worst nightmare.” My patient isn’t alone in that devastating experience, of course – the diagnosis and treatment of cancer is a major life event. Not surprisingly, the suicide rate is roughly double that of the general population in the United States. But with increasing psychosocial interventions, how has this changed over time?

In the first selection, Qiang Liu (of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences) and his co-authors attempt to answer that question in a new paper for Translational Psychiatry. Drawing on 40 years of data and a major US database, they analyzed the journeys of five million cancer patients, discovering good news. “We revealed a gradual increase in cancer-related suicide rates from 1975 to 1989, followed by a gradual decrease from 1989 to 2013, and a marked decrease from 2013 to 2017.” Indeed, between 2013 and 2017, the rate dropped by 27%. We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Sakiko Yasukawa (of the Sony Corporation) and her co-authors aimed to reduce dropouts from psychotherapy using AI. In a new paper for BMJ Mental Health, they describe an RCT involving 149 people. “The results suggest that the personalised messages sent by the chatbot helped participants control their pace in attending lessons and improve programme adherence without human guidance.”

Last week marked the anniversary of D-Day with ceremonies, including in Normandy. What was the toll on those who returned home? In the third selection, an essay published in The Globe and Mail, Normanne Bland describes her father and his time in Europe. She writes about him with mixed feelings, coloured by his mental health problems, including PTSD. “I had a complicated relationship with my father. I was proud of his service but I loathed his drinking.”

There will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Placebo & Mental Disorders – the New JAMA Psych Study; Also, Children Who Lost a Parent to Overdose, and the Latest in the News

From the Editor 

It’s day three of his hospitalization, and he insists that the medication trial (a low dose of an SSRI) has been transformative. It’s difficult to explain his experience pharmacologically. 

How significant is the placebo response? How much does it vary among mental disorders? These questions aren’t new. In the first selection, Dr. Tom Bschor (of the Technical University of Dresden) and his co-authors tread on a familiar path with a study just published in JAMA Psychiatry. Focusing on nine psychiatric disorders, they examined high-quality RCTs for a systematic review and meta-analysis, finding “significant improvement under placebo treatment for all 9 disorders, but the degree of improvement varied significantly among diagnoses.” We consider the study and its implications.

In the second selection, Christopher M. Jones (of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and his co-authors used US databases to calculate how many children have lost a parent to drug overdoses. The resulting JAMA Psychiatry study is haunting. “We estimated that more than 320 000 US children lost a parent to drug overdose between 2011 and 2021, providing new insight into the multigenerational impacts of the ongoing overdose crisis in the US.”

Finally, we explore the latest news with recent articles from The GuardianThe Globe and Mail, and The New York Times. Among the topics: the mental health struggles of a cancer patient, the beliefs of Marshall Smith, and whether we are talking too much about mental health.

DG

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