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.


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