TagCMAJ

Reading of the Week: Lithium – Anti-Suicidal Qualities? Also, Dr. Tim Graham on His Illness & Recovery (CMAJ)

From the Editor

Our patients complain about the hand tremor. Some feel fatigued when they take this medication. And toxicity is always a risk.

Lithium, in other words, is tough to work with – the Callas or Pavarotti of psychotropic medications, if you will. And yet, it’s arguably the best mood stabilizer, helping people with bipolar get back their lives. Some have gone so far as to claim that all of us should take a little lithium.

Among the purported benefits of lithium: anti-suicidal effects. But does this medication really help our suicidal patients? In a new paper, Dr. Ira R. Katz (of the University of Pennsylvania) and his co-authors ask this question, armed with an impressive dataset. In a JAMA Psychiatry paper, they report the findings of a double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. “The addition of lithium to usual Veterans Affairs mental health care did not reduce the incidence of suicide-related events in veterans with major depression or bipolar disorders who experienced a recent suicide event.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

photo-1567693528052-e213227086bbLithium: the psychotropic that’s as old as the earth

In the second selection, Dr. Tim Graham (of the University of Alberta) writes about his training and work as an ED physician, and his burnout. In a raw, highly personal essay for CMAJ, he speaks about his suicidal thoughts – and the decision to get help. He writes: “If you die tomorrow, your employer will replace you, but your loved ones cannot.” Dr. Graham also offers some practical suggestions for staying well.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicidal Ideation in a 37-Year-Old Woman – A NEJM Case; Also, Goldbloom on Innovation (QT) and Purdy on Her Brother (CMAJ)

From the Editor

She presents with suicidal thoughts and had a challenging course with COVID-19.

She could be a patient in your afternoon clinic. In fact, she was seen and treated at Massachusetts General Hospital. And her case was discussed at psychiatry grand rounds, and then written up for The New England Journal of Medicine.

In our first selection, Dr. Carol S. North (of the University of Texas Southwestern) and her co-authors consider this patient’s story. They detail her history and course in hospital. They also note the complexities: “This case highlights the importance of attending to the intricate, multilevel, systemic factors that affect the mental health experience and clinical presentation of patients, especially among patients such as this one, who identified as Latina.”

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Dr. David Goldbloom (of the University of Toronto) joins me for a Quick Takes podcast interview. We discuss his new book about innovations in mental health care. “I wrote the book because like so many people who work in our profession, so many people who are on the receiving end of care, and for the families who support those individuals, there is a shared sense that the status quo isn’t good enough.”

In the third selection, Dr. Kaylynn Purdy (of the University of Alberta), a resident of neurology, writes about her brother and his illness in the pages of the CMAJ. He develops schizophrenia and becomes homeless in Vancouver. She talks about his life and death. “When you meet somebody living on the streets, remember my brother.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicide and Gender in Canada; Also, Access and Immigrants (CJP), and Chok on Variations on a Theme (CMAJ)

From the Editor

This week, we have three selections; all are from Canadian publications.

Suicide rates have been declining in this country. In the first selection, Sara Zulyniak (of the University of Calgary) and her co-authors look at suicide by age and gender, drawing on almost two decades’ worth of data. In their analysis, there is a surprising finding: “The suicide rates in females aged 10 to 19 and 20 to 29 were increasing between 2000 and 2018. In comparison, no male regression results indicated significantly increasing rates.” This research letter, just published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, is short and relevant.

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In the second selection, also from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Joanna Marie B. Rivera (of Simon Fraser University) and her co-authors consider access to care. They focus on immigrants and nonimmigrants, noting differences in the way care is provided for those with mood disorders. “People with access to team-based primary care are more likely to report mental health consultations, and this is especially true for immigrants. Unfortunately, immigrants, and especially recent immigrants, are more likely to see a doctor in solo practice or use walk-in clinics as a usual place of care.”

Finally, in our third selection from CMAJ, Dr. Rozalyn Chok (of the University of Alberta), a pianist who is now a resident of paediatrics, describes a performance at a mental hospital. “I still hear exactly how it sounded on that tinny upright piano. I feel the uneven weighting of the keys, remember how difficult it was to achieve the voicing – the balance of melody and harmony – I wanted.” She reflects on the piece she played, and its impact on a patient.

DG

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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: COVID & Mental Health (NEJM); also, Helping Health Workers (CMAJ) and Caring Contact for the Elderly (Globe)

From the Editor

This week’s Reading – like the last few – focuses on the latest in the literature on COVID and mental health care with three selections. As life with the pandemic continues, more and more journals have published about it, with some discussing the implications for mental health services.

In the first selection, we consider a paper on mental health services and the pandemic. In a NEJM paper, Drs. Betty Pfefferbaum (of University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center) and Carol S. North (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center) argue for an integrated and measured approach. In responding to COVID, they advocate that: “already stretched health care providers have an important role in monitoring psychosocial needs and delivering psychosocial support to their patients, health care providers, and the public – activities that should be integrated into general pandemic health care.”

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How can we help health workers? In the second selection, we consider a new CMAJ paper by Dr. Peter E. Wu (of the University of Toronto)and co-authors. They write: “Taking care of ourselves is vital so that we may continue to take care of others.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a news article from The Globe and Mail. Reporter Erin Anderssen describes how “caring contacts,” a psychiatric intervention, is used by volunteers to connect with the elderly. “The spontaneous initiatives expanding now are prompted more by what we instinctively know: Human contact motivated purely by compassion is essential to our well-being.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Social Media & Youth Mental Health – the New CMAJ Paper; Also, Antonetta and Her Illness (NYT)

From the Editor

Politicians tout their opinions on social media. Celebrities use it to tell us about their lives. And for everything from cute kid pics to debates over big issues, social media is part of our way of communicating with the world.

But what are the implications to the mental health of adolescents? Many have an opinion, but what can we glean from the literature? This week, we have a couple of selections. In the first and main selection, we look at a review paper from CMAJ. Dr. Elia Abi-Jaoude (University of Toronto) and his co-authors consider the literature on social media. Then, pulling the different studies together, they offer some clinical advice.

social_media_picSocial media: many options, many problems?

In the second selection, we look at an essay by author Susanne Antonetta. She discusses her psychosis and recovery. “There’s difference between psychosis and physical ailments: In the case of psychosis, no one is likely to stop by with a casserole.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Depression – What is the Economic Burden? The New CJP Paper; Also, Zimmerman on Scales (JAMA) and Bernard on her Illness (CMAJ)

From the Editor

For the patient sitting in front of you, depression is a weight around her shoulders, the reason she can’t enjoy her favourite activities or laugh at her partner’s jokes. Such is the patient experience.

This week, we have three selections, and all consider different aspects of this illness. In the first, we look at a paper from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Julie-Anne Tanner (University of Toronto) and her co-authors draw on data to estimate the economic burden of depression in Manitoba. They conclude: “Depression contributes significantly to health burden and per patient costs in Manitoba, Canada. Extrapolation of the results to the entire Canadian health-care system projects an excess of $12 billion annually in health system spending.”

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Manitoba: big prairie & big burden of depression

In the second selection, we review a short JAMA paper by Dr. Mark Zimmerman (Brown University) considering depression management. He recommends the use of the PHQ-9 in screening. As for treatment, he writes: “the PHQ-9 should be administered at each visit to quantitatively measure a patient’s treatment response.”

And in the third selection, returning to the patient experience, Dr. Carrie Bernard (University of Toronto) writes in CMAJ about her journey. “I am a committed family physician, skilled researcher and respected leader at my university. And I suffer from depression. Why is that so difficult to write?”

DG

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Reading of the Week: A Century After Osler, Is He Relevant (NEJM)? Also, AI & Diagnosis (CMAJ) and Ketamine & Safety (JAD)

From the Editor

A century after his death, is Dr. Osler still relevant?

This week, there are three selections. First, we start with a look back with an essay on Dr. William Osler. We then look forward: with papers on AI and ketamine.

In the first selection, Drs. Charles S. Bryan (the University of South Carolina) and Scott H. Podolsky (Harvard University) write in The New England Journal of Medicine about Dr. Osler on the 100th anniversary of his death. Contemplating his life and views, they note that he “gave physicians what certain national historians gave their countries: warm feelings of togetherness, pride, and purpose.”

nlc012022-v6William Osler

In the second selection, we look at a CMAJ paper. Considering AI and health care, University of Strasbourg’s Dr. Thierry Pelaccia and his co-authors write about the reasoning of mind and machine. They see a bright future: “AI can assume its place as a routine tool in medical practice.”

Finally, for the third selection, we consider a new paper on ketamine and safety from the Journal of Affective Disorders. Drawing on several studies, NIMH’s Elia E. Acevedo-Diaz and her co-authors conclude: “The results indicate that a single intravenous subanesthetic-dose ketamine infusion was relatively safe for the treatment of [treatment-resistant depression].”

DG

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Reading of the Week: “The Name of the Dog” – Dr. Tafder’s Excellent NEJM Paper & More

From the Editor

There is something often dehumanizing about the health-care experience – the way patients can be reduced to medical-record numbers, the way lives can be summarized in disease names and a few demographic details (“a 30 year old woman with schizophrenia”).

This week, we consider two essays that are about people who happen to be patients – and the lessons that our colleagues have drawn from their stories.

In the first selection, we look at a paper written by Dr. Taimur Safder that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. It’s about the name of a dog – and much more. During his training, Dr. Safder presents the case of a person who develops chest pain when walking his dog. When the supervisor asks the name of the dog, the physician isn’t sure. “Four years later, I’m not sure anything I’ve carried from residency has been more useful than that question.”

dy_wosjwsamveozNo, this Reading isn’t really about dogs

And, in the second selection, we consider a short essay by Dr. Lee Lu. The Texas doctor describes her experiences working with a patient with substance use problems – and wrestling with her own biases.

Finally, returning to the topic of cannabis legalization, we consider some responses to last week’s Reading, and a CMAJ editorial on the topic.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Can Computerized CBT Help People with Substance Problems? The New AJP Paper. Also, How Many People Really Have Mental Illness?

From the Editor

More than ever, we are talking about substance use problems. But as with other mental health services, people struggle to get care, particularly evidence-based therapies.

In the first selection, we consider a new paper from The American Journal of Psychiatry, published last week. Yale University’s Brian Kiluk and his co-authors compare traditional CBT (done with a therapist and in-person) with a computer-based therapy program, CBT4CBT. They conclude: “This computerized version of CBT thus appears to be an engaging and attractive approach for persons with substance use disorders.”

typingTyping to Treat Substance Use?

In the second selection, we consider an essay by The Globe and Mail’s André Picard who asks a simple question: How many people actually suffer from mental illness? Picard cautions us on “pathologizing normal emotions.”

DG

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