TagJAMA Psychiatry

Reading of the Week: Telepsychiatry – the Reality, the Potential, the Problems

From the Editor

Just a handful of months ago, mental health work didn’t require a webcam or a lighting ring, and no one talked about Zoom fatigue. The world is different now, obviously. With COVID-19, telepsychiatry is very much part of our clinical work.

This week, we consider three papers focused on telepsychiatry and our new world.

How widespread is the adoption of telepsychiatry in this pandemic era? In the first selection, Jonathan Cantor (of the RAND Corporation) and his co-authors draw on a big American database to answer that question. In Psychiatric Services, they write: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the percentage of outpatient mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities offering telehealth has grown dramatically. However, our analyses also indicated that considerable proportions of mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities still did not offer telehealth as of January 2021…”

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In the second selection, John C. Fortney (of the University of Washington) and his co-authors consider two different types of care: with psychiatrists directly involved in patient care (through televideo) or indirectly, by providing support to primary care. In a JAMA Psychiatry study, they do a comparison. Spoiler alert: both approaches were effective, suggesting great potential, especially for those in rural areas.

Of course, not everyone is enthusiastic about telepsychiatry. In our third selection, Dr. J. Alexander Scott (of the University of Michigan), a resident of psychiatry, describes his ambivalence. His Academic Psychiatry paper starts memorably: “Admittedly, I’ve never liked telemedicine.” He outlines some of the problems with our digital world.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cardiovascular Diseases & Mental Disorders – The New AJP Paper; Also, Systematic Racism & Depression (JAMA Psych)

From the Editor

When people with mental health problems have physical illness, how does their care measure up?

Not surprisingly, we worry about their access and follow up. Evidence suggests poorer outcomes. But how do people with mental disorders fare on an international basis?

In the first selection, Dr. Marco Solmi (of the University of Padua) and his co-authors try to answer that question, focusing on cardiovascular diseases (CVD). In a new American Journal of Psychiatry paper, they conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis, drawing on the data of more than 24 million people. (!) They find: “People with mental disorders, and those with schizophrenia in particular, receive less screening and lower-quality treatment for CVD. It is of paramount importance to address underprescribing of CVD medications and underutilization of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures across all mental disorders.” We discuss the paper and its clinical implications.

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In the second selection from The American Journal of Psychiatry, Drs. Nathalie Moise and Sidney Hankerson (both of Columbia University) consider structural racism and depression care, using a clinical vignette. Rather than just seeing the patient’s experience in terms of genetic loading and medications, they describe a person who has struggled with various forms of racism. They argue: “Mental health professionals need to recognize the effect of structural, individual, and internalized racism on individuals with depression symptoms.”

DG
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Reading of the Week: Does Opioid Agonist Treatment Save Lives? Also, the Problem with Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs (CJP)

From the Editor

Methadone was invented in the 1930s. The first legal injection site opened its doors nearly two decades ago. Yet our challenges with opioids seem to have only worsened with time. Consider, for example, that in a new, two-year study, the authors found that opioid-related deaths rose almost 600% between 2015 and 2017 in Canada.

What can we do? This week, we consider two selections.

In the first, Thomas Santo Jr (of the University of New South Wales) and his co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis for opioid agonist treatment for those with opioid dependence. They write in JAMA Psychiatry: “Our findings suggest a potential public health benefit of OAT, which was associated with a greater than 50% lower risk of all-cause mortality, drug-related deaths, and suicide and was associated with significantly lower rates of mortality for other causes.” We consider the big paper and its implications.

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And in the other selection, Benedikt Fischer (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors weigh the recent interest in decriminalizing illicit drug use. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry commentary, they note their hesitation, writing: “while ‘decriminalization’ proposals for illicit drug use are popular and largely well-intended, their overall merits require cautious analysis and scrutiny.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Shamiri Layperson-Provided Therapy in Kenya – Big Study, But Ethical? Also, a Reader Comments on Chatbots

From the Editor 

There are more psychiatrists of African origin in the US than in the whole of Africa. And I could actually say similar examples from the Philippines, or India, or many other countries. There is an enormous shortage of mental health resources…” 

So comments Dr. Vikram Patel (of Harvard University). Across low-income nations, mental health care services are profoundly difficult to access. Could Shamir (Kiswahili for thrive) – an intervention built on simple psychological concepts and delivered by laypersons – be part of the solution? 

This week, we look at a new paper from JAMA PsychiatryTom L.  Osborn (of Kenya’s Shamiri Institute) and his co-authors describe the results of a study involving adolescents with depression and anxiety symptoms. To our knowledge, this is one of the first adequately powered tests in this population of a scalable intervention grounded in simple positive psychological elements.” We look at the big paper. 

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 But is the work ethical? In our second selection, we consider the editorial that accompanies the Osborn et al. paper. JAMA Psychiatry Editor Dr. Dost  Öngür (of Harvard University) defends the study and his decision to publish it: “Because this trial was already conducted, we considered the obligations of the journal to be different than those of investigators and prospective reviewers. The question for us was whether there is a benefit to society by publishing the study as it was conducted.” 

Finally, in our third selection, a reader writes us. Giorgio A.Tasca (of the University of Ottawa) responds to The New York Times article by Karen Brown considering chatbots. “Is scaling up an intervention with dubious research support – that results in low adherence and high dropout (and perhaps more demoralization as a result) – worth it?” 

Please note that there will be no Reading next week. 

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Reading of the Week: Suicide and Schizophrenia – Across Life Span; Also, Transgender-Inclusive Care (QT), and the NYT on Chatbots

From the Editor

This week, we have three selections.

In the first, we consider suicide and schizophrenia. In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Dr. Mark Olfson (of Columbia University) and his co-authors do a cohort study across life-span, tapping a massive database. They find: “the risk of suicide was higher compared with the general US population and was highest among those aged 18 to 34 years and lowest among those 65 years and older.” The authors see clear clinical implications: “These findings suggest that suicide prevention efforts for individuals with schizophrenia should include a focus on younger adults with suicidal symptoms and substance use disorders.”

In the second selection, we consider transgender-inclusive care, looking at a new Quick Takes podcast. Drs. June Lam and Alex Abramovich (both of the University of Toronto) comment on caring for members of this population. “Trans individuals are medically underserved and experience, poor mental health outcomes, high rates of disease burden – compared to cisgender individuals.”

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Finally, in our third selection from The New York Times, reporter Karen Brown writes about chatbots for psychotherapy, focusing on Woebot. The writer quotes psychologist Alison Darcy about the potential of these conversational agents: “If we can deliver some of the things that the human can deliver, then we actually can create something that’s truly scalable, that has the capability to reduce the incidence of suffering in the population.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Zen vs Zoloft for Relapse Prevention – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Grossman-Kahn on Her Patient’s Cause (NEJM)

From the Editor

He feels better and he wants to go off medications, what should you recommend?

Patients raise this question often in depression management. For some, antidepressants are rich in side effects; others simply dislike the idea of long-term medications. For years, the response was simple: outline the risks of going off medications. Depression guidelines, after all, mention the need for continued antidepressants, especially for those who have had multiple past episodes. But, more recently, several papers have suggested that certain psychotherapies reduce the risk of relapse and can rival antidepressants.

But, until now, there hasn’t been a good meta-analysis. This week, in our first selection, we consider a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. Josefien J. F. Breedvelt (of the University of Amsterdam) and co-authors do an individual data meta-analysis comparing antidepressants and psychotherapies for relapse prevention – Zen versus Zoloft, if you will. They write: “The sequential delivery of a psychological intervention during and/or after tapering may be an effective relapse prevention strategy instead of long-term use of antidepressants.” We consider the big paper and its clinical implications.

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And in the second selection, Dr. Rebecca Grossman-Kahn (of the University of Minnesota) writes about a patient encounter in Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd. Noting his manic episode, she wonders about larger questions, including diagnosis and coercion. This resident of psychiatry writes: “Training has taught me to recognize the signs of mania and psychosis. But nothing prepared me to ask courageous protesters to put their crucial work for change on hold due to mental illness.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Helping Healthcare Workers Seek Help; Also, Smoking Cessation for Inpatients & Priebe on Why Patients Should Be Called Patients

From the Editor

How do we connect with them?

With the worst of the third wave now behind us, we are beginning to look forward. But for some, the problems of the pandemic aren’t fading. They will continue to struggle with mental health problems.

Healthcare workers are particularly at risk. They are also, collectively, a group that is difficult to engage. In the first selection, we look at a new paper from The British Journal of Psychiatry. Dr. Doron Amsalem (of Columbia University) and his co-authors do a video intervention to increase treatment seeking. The resulting RCT is impressive. The authors write: “The high proportion of healthcare workers surveyed in this study who reported symptoms of probable generalised anxiety, depression and/or PTSD emphasises the need for intervention aimed at increasing treatment-seeking among US healthcare workers. A three-minute online social contact-based video intervention effectively increased self-reported treatment-seeking intentions among healthcare workers.”

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In the second selection, Richard A. Brown (of the University of Texas at Austin) and his co-authors look at a new approach to an old problem: high smoking rates among people with severe mental illness. Focusing on inpatient hospitalizations, they design an intervention built on motivational interviewing. We consider their JAMA Psychiatry paper.

Is the term patient antiquated? Should we use other terms, like client or service user? In a BJPsych Bulletin paper, Dr. Stefan Priebe (of Queen Mary University of London) argues that we serve patients – and that words matter. “Mental healthcare is based on shared values and scientific evidence. Both require precise thinking, and precise thinking requires an exact and consistent terminology.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: How Will Venture Capital Change Psychiatry? Also, Gambling in Canada (CJP) and Dr. Bagley on Her Anxiety (JAMA)

From the Editor

Recently, one of patients raved about an app that she started to use. Talkspace offers her access to psychotherapy, unbound by geography, with a variety of therapist options.

The catch: she’s paying for it. In her opinion, it’s a good investment in her mental health. In Wall Street’s opinion, it’s a good investment in their financial health: that app has raised more than $110 million (USD) in venture capital. Other popular apps have also caught the eye and the backing of Wall Street – think Calm ($144 million USD) and Headspace ($167 million USD).

Is venture capital changing mental health care? And what are the potential problems? In the first selection, we consider a new Viewpoint paper by Drs. Ravi N. Shah (of Columbia University) and Obianuju O. Berry (of New York University). They write: “Although the value of this trend is yet to be fully realized, the rise in venture capital investment in mental health care offers an opportunity to scale treatments that work and address mental illness at the population level. However, quality control, privacy concerns, and severe mental illness are major issues that need to be addressed.”

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In our second selection, we look at a new paper by Robert J. Williams (of the University of Lethbridge) and his co-authors on gambling and problem gambling in Canada. Drawing on survey data, they find a surprising result: “Gambling and problem gambling have both decreased in Canada from 2002 to 2018 although the provincial patterns are quite similar between the 2 time periods.”

Finally, in our third selection, Dr. Sarah M. Bagley (of Boston University) discusses the problems of a newborn baby and its impact on his mother. The pediatrician isn’t writing about anyone – she is writing about her own experiences, and the resulting anxiety she experienced. “My story continues, but I hope that by sharing the issue of postpartum health can be better addressed among my colleagues and patients.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: A Therapy for Pandemic Loneliness? Also, Getting Digital Psychiatry Right (Lancet Psych) and the History of Vaccines (NEJM)

From the Editor

I saw an older patient in the emergency room recently. He described feeling overwhelmed. Fearful of the pandemic, he explained that he had rarely left his apartment since it began. “I’m so isolated.”

Many find themselves in a similar situation. What could help? In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Maninder K. Kahlon (of The University of Texas at Austin) and co-authors describe a focused intervention involving laypeople doing an empathy-focused program by phone. Do the calls work? They found it reduced loneliness, anxiety, and depression. They note the potential: “The use of lay callers, deliberate but brief approach on training, and the use of ubiquitous telephones made the approach easily deployable and scalable.”

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In an editorial, The Lancet Psychiatry considers our digital moment. Though they note the trendiness of the idea of digital psychiatry, they urge us to push: “Come 2 years or 20, we want to stop talking about digital psychiatry’s potential for improving public mental health and start marking its clear clinical progress.”

Finally, in our third selection, we look at a new paper from The New England Journal of Medicine. Drs. Angela Desmond and Paul A. Offit (both of the University of Pennsylvania) consider the history of vaccines, and look ahead: “With the recent authorization of mRNA vaccines, we have entered the fifth era of vaccinology.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

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On a pivot –

Since 2014, the Reading of the Week has been providing summaries and commentary on the latest in the psychiatric literature. Two years ago, we conducted a short survey to get your feedback. We are hoping to get feedback again to improve the Readings.

We would like to invite you to join one of our online focus groups to hear your opinions and suggestions. If you are interested in participating, please email smit.mistry@camh.ca by April 12 with your preferred time slots from the following options – psychiatrists: April 21 at 4 pm or April 22 at 4 pm; residents: April 28 at 4 pm and April 29 at 4 pm. (Note: all times are in EST.) Time commitment: under an hour. If the above time slots do not work for you, please email Smit to arrange an interview time at your convenience, preferably between April 21 and April 30, 2021.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Yoga vs CBT – What’s Best for Anxiety? (JAMA Psych) Also, COVID & Mental Health (Lancet Psych) and Whitley on Cannabis Stigma (Van Sun)

From the Editor

Anxiety disorders are common, and often disabling to our patients. While treatments have improved, there is unmet need – and the desire to find new, scalable interventions. Increasingly, our patients look to different types of treatments, like yoga. But is trendy effective? Is yoga the not-so-new intervention we need?

Dr. Naomi M. Simon (of New York University) and her co-authors look at the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder with a sophisticated study. They compare yoga and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) against a psychological control condition, and against each other. So how do the treatments compare? “Kundalini yoga can reduce anxiety for adults with generalized anxiety disorder, but study results support CBT remaining first-line treatment.” We look at the big study and its big implications.

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What have we learned about COVID-19 and mental health? In the second selection, we consider a new editorial from The Lancet Psychiatry. Mulling the state of the literature after almost a year of the pandemic, they write: “The good news is that by October, 2020, mental health was top of the charts in terms of published papers and preprints on the effects of COVID-19. The bad news is that the quantity of papers is not matched by quality.”

And in our final selection, we consider an essay by Rob Whitley (of McGill University). He notes that 27% of Canadians had used cannabis in the last year, about half of them for medical reasons. He worries about the stigma around medical cannabis and champions more public education. “This can help create a climate of acceptance and inclusion for the growing number of Canadians with mental illness who use cannabis to improve their well-being.”

On another note: in a past Reading, we featured an essay by Toronto filmmaker Rebeccah Love who wrote about her mental illness. Her new film, “Parlour Love,” has its premiere this Saturday at 7 pm EST through Zoom. In this short, powerful film, she draws from her own experiences of bipolar mania and psychosis, and paints a portrait of a woman in crisis. RSVP – palmpremiere@gmail.com.

DG

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