Tagapps

Reading of the Week: Are Those with Mental Illness at More Risk of COVID? Also, a Podcast on Apps (QT) and Horton on Advocacy & Doctors (Macleans)

From the Editor

Are people with mental illness more likely to contract COVID-19? Are they at greater risk of dying?

With the pandemic in its eighth month, we think we have answers to these questions, but data is lacking. In the first selection, we consider a new paper, just published in World Psychiatry. QuanQiu Wang (of Case Western Reserve) and her co-authors analyzed a nation‐wide database of electronic health records of 61 million American patients, aiming to assess the impact of mental illness. “These findings identify individuals with a recent diagnosis of a mental disorder as being at increased risk for COVID‐19 infection, which is further exacerbated among African Americans and women, and as having a higher frequency of some adverse outcomes of the infection.”

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In the second selection, we consider a new podcast discussing digital tools. I talk with Dr. John Torous (of Harvard University). We discuss apps and mental health. And, yes, he has tips on how to pick apps for your patients and their families.

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a new essay by Dr. Jillian Horton (of the University of Manitoba). Should doctors “stay in their lanes?” She argues against the idea, championing a new activism. “So, to my brothers and sisters in medicine: forget about staying in our lane. This is our call to flood the freeways. We cannot stay parked in neutral. There is no more time.”

Please note: there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Should Police Respond to Mental Health Crises? Also, Apps & College Students (Psych Services) and the Life of DJ Jaffe (NYT)

From the Editor

Another tragedy, another headline.

And there have been too many. The stories differ, but there is a common thread: mental illness and a crisis, a 911 call, death. Can we do better?

In the first selection, we consider a new essay by Dr. Sally Satel (of Yale University). Dr. Satel, a psychiatrist, notes recent tragic outcomes with mental health crises. “Nationwide, a person with a psychotic illness is 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than a person without such a condition.” She wonders about an alternative to police responses.

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In the second selection, we look at apps and college students. In a Psychiatric Services paper, Jennifer Melcher and John Torous (of Harvard Medical School) review the recommendations of mental health apps of several university counselling programs. They conclude: “the findings indicated that many counseling centers are suggesting apps that are inaccessible, outdated, potentially dangerous, and without research backing.”

Finally, in our third selection, we consider The New York Times obituary for D.J. Jaffe – the title is a good summary of his life: “Ad Man Turned Mental Health Crusader.” Jaffe, whose sister-in-law has major mental illness, was a strong advocate of various mental health causes, with his influence felt on state and national legislation.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Mental Health — Is There an App For That? & More

From the Editor

Sigmund Freud, Aaron Beck, Steve Jobs?

Do apps have the potential to reshape mental health?

It’s a hot topic and Nature – the prestigious British journal – explores the potential and pitfalls of mental health apps.

In this week’s Reading, we consider “Pocket Psychiatry.”

Also: journalist John Stossel discusses his lung cancer – and health-care delivery.

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Reading of the Week: Depression: Is There an App for That?

Depression is a serious, common, and recurring disorder linked to diminished functioning, quality of life, medical morbidity, and mortality. There has been a 37.5% increase in health life years lost to depression over the past two decades. Depression was the third-leading cause of global burden of disease in 2004 and the leading cause of burden of disease in high- and middle-income countries. It is projected to be the leading cause globally in 2030. While effective treatments for depression are available, they are underused. Barriers to treatment include geography, socioeconomic status, system capacity, treatment costs (direct and indirect), low mental health literacy, cultural beliefs, and stigma. A 2010 study found that 75% of primary care patients with depression in urban areas could identify more than one structural, psychological, cultural, or emotional barrier to accessing behavioral treatments. The rate was substantially higher in rural areas.

So begins a new paper that considers an old problem – the difficulty of patients accessing mental health care.

But this paper is different. It considers a modern approach to access: smartphone and tablet applications (or apps) for depression. And it’s not just the topic that is so modern with this week’s Reading. Consider: the paper was published in a new journal, JMIR mHealth and uHealth, available only on-line, and focused on the very modern topic of mobile health. (This journal is a spin-off of JMIR, the Journal of Medical Internet Research, itself a relatively new journal, which boasts an impact factor of 4.7 in 2013.)

This week’s Reading: “Finding a Depression App: A Review and Content Analysis of the Depression App Marketplace” by Nelson Shen et al. In it, the authors seek to shed light on a poorly studied area. As they note early in the paper, despite the incredible popularity of apps, only one recent systemic review looked at depression apps, and included just 4 papers. And so, Shen et al. consider apps for depression, drawing out common characteristics and purposes.

This is, then, an important topic. The potential here is great: with so many of our patients empowering themselves with apps, those with depression could potentially access good information, screening tools and even treatments such as CBT.

What did Shen et al. find in their paper? It’s best summarized by the old Roman phrase caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Continue reading