TagJAMA Psychiatry

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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Reading of the Week: Vaccines, Vaccine Hesitation & Mental Illness, with Papers from JAMA Psychiatry and NEJM, and More

From the Editor:

It’s here. Less than a year after COVID-19 arrived in North America, two vaccines have been created, approved, and given (at least to some).

In the coming months, as the supply improves, people – including our patients – will have the opportunity to get a vaccine. But what are the challenges? First, some will hesitate. In a recent essay, Dr. Nadia Alam notes that: “Vaccine hesitancy is a significant issue with only 57.5% of Canadians saying they are very likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19.” And special populations will present further challenges – such as those with major mental illness.

This week, we focus on vaccinations with two papers and an article.

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In the first selection, drawing from JAMA Psychiatry, we consider a paper by Dr. Nicola Warren (of the University of Queensland) and her co-authors. They note the challenges of reaching people with serious mental illness – just one in four get a flu vaccine. “It is vital to commence planning and development of appropriate policies to ensure rapid delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.”

In a New England Journal of Medicine paper, Dr. Joshua A. Barocas (of the Boston University School of Medicine) thinks about the needs of those with substance use disorders. “Officials devising vaccination strategies and allocation plans would be wise to do so from the perspective of the virus, rather than that of stigmatizing personal beliefs.”

How to speak to our patients? In the final selection, we look at a short piece by Dr. Joshua C. Morganstein (of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences).  His advice is very practical, and emphasizes that we should tailor our approach not by diagnosis but by patient interest in the vaccination. He also urges us to be careful in our choice of language: “Health care professionals are trained to use complex medical terminology, though more understandable and down-to-earth language often serves to enhance trust and build rapport.”

DG
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Reading of the Week: Apps for the Treatment of Depression (JAMA Psych)? Also, Cannabis & Driving (CJP); Oleynikova on Returning to School (Globe)

From the Editor

The world changed on March 11, the day that the pandemic was declared by the WHO. So did mental health care, with so many of our services becoming virtually delivered. But what’s effective and what should be incorporated into care moving forward?

This week, we have three selections.

The first is a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. With COVID-19, apps are becoming increasingly popular (one therapy app reports a 65% increase in clients over the spring). Can the apps be incorporated into primary care? Andrea K. Graham (of Northwestern University) and her co-authors do a RCT using apps for patients with depression and anxiety. They conclude: “In this trial, a mobile intervention app was effective for depression and anxiety among primary care patients.” But should we be so enthusiastic? And how could apps be used in care?

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Canada legalized cannabis for non-medical purposes in 2018. In a short research letter – our second selection – medical student Laura A. Rivera and Dr. Scott B. Patten (both of the University of Calgary) consider driving under the influence of cannabis, drawing on national survey data. “Public policy actions toward prevention of DUIC [driving under the influence of cannabis] appear necessary and will have the greatest impact if they are effective in the 15 to 24 age range and in males.”

Finally, in the third selection, we consider an essay from The Globe and Mail. Like many, Vera Oleynikova thinks about the return to school. She writes about her own experiences, noting a complication: she has struggled with depression. “To be sick for a long time and then to feel well again is a magical thing. You feel brand new and capable of anything. You marvel at your own capacity to do the things that for a long time were unavailable to you because of your illness. Which is why going back to school at 31 felt so right.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Perceived Helpfulness of Depression Treatment – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Friedman on Boredom & the Pandemic (NYT)

From the Editor

How helpful do people find treatment for depression?

This question is broad but new work (drawing on WHO surveys) ambitiously attempts to answer it across different countries, including some that are low income.

In the first selection, we consider a paper from JAMA Psychiatry. Meredith G. Harris (of The University of Queensland) and her co-authors report on WHO data. The good news? Many people do find treatment for depression helpful. The bad news? Many providers are needed for people to believe that they had received helpful treatment.

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In the second selection, we look at a new essay by Dr. Richard A. Friedman (of Weill Cornell Medical College). Writing in The New York Times, he discusses the pandemic and the possibility of “a mental health epidemic of depression and anxiety.” Dr. Friedman argues that we are seeing mass boredom, not a rise in disorders like depression. While he can’t fully rule out that the pandemic will bring about an increase in mental health problems, he writes: “let’s not medicalize everyday stress.”

DG
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Reading of the Week: Physician Suicide – the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper and Editorial

From the Editor

“‘I Couldn’t Do Anything’: The Virus and an E.R. Doctor’s Suicide.”

So headlines a long article on the life and death of a New York doctor who had excelled at medicine – Dr. Lorna Breen oversaw an ER department, and was studying in a dual degree master’s program at Cornell University – but died during the COVID-19 pandemic. The front-page story ran last weekend in The New York Times.

Physician suicide. It’s a weighty topic, one that typically wasn’t discussed much in the past, in part because of the reluctance of physicians to acknowledge their own problems. But how often does it occur and is there a gender gap?

This week, we consider a new paper by Dr. Dante Duarte (of Harvard Medical School) and his co-authors. While previous papers have been published in this area, Duarte et al. are ambitious: they do a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies published over the last four decades. In the JAMA Psychiatry paper, they find: “suicide standardized morality ratios were high in female physicians and low in male physicians after 1980…”

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The paper runs with an editorial by Drs. Katherine J. Gold (of the University of Michigan) and Thomas L. Schwenk (of the University of Nevada). Putting the paper in a larger context, they write: “Suicide prevention is a moral responsibility of the entire medical profession.”

And a quick word of welcome to PGY1 residents who are joining us this week as part of our continued partnership with 12 Canadian residency programs from coast to coast to coast.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicide Prevention in the Acute Care Setting (JAMA Psychiatry); Also, Gottlieb on Racism (Wash Post)

From the Editor

In the year before they suicide, more than 90% of people have had contact with some type of acute care – an ED visit, a trip to the family doctor, or an appointment at an outpatient specialty clinic. So how can we help people better? Given the contact, what can we do to reduce suicides?

This week, we have two selections; the first focuses on this question. In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Dr. Stephanie K. Doupnik (of the University of Pennsylvania) and her co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis of 14 studies that used brief suicide prevention interventions in acute care settings (think brief contact interventions like a phone call after an ED visit). They find an encouraging result: “In this meta-analysis, brief suicide prevention interventions were associated with reduced subsequent suicide attempts.” We consider the big paper, and the editorial that accompanies it.

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In the other selection, therapist Lori Gottlieb discusses race and therapy in a Washington Post essay. She examines her own biases, and the way they play out in her therapy session. “Here’s what we didn’t talk about [in school]: the racism that might take place inside the supposedly ‘safe space’ of our therapy rooms – our patients’ racism and our own.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week. Happy Canada Day.

DG

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Reading of the Week: What Now? CJP on Mental Health of Communities; also, Telepsychiatry Post-COVID (JAMA Psych), and Gold on Stigma (Time)

From the Editor

What now? COVID is part of our new reality. But as we move forward – as a nation that is past peak, and slowly beginning the task of reopening – how do we understand the mental health needs, challenges, and opportunities of the post-pandemic world? This week, we have three selections considering that question.

The first is a new editorial. In The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Daniel Vigo (of the University of British Columbia) and his co-authors note that “epidemics & pandemics have long been known to impact mental health: The mental problems triggered by viral outbreaks have been described as a ‘parallel epidemic.’” Understanding that subpopulations have different needs, they argue for an approach that focuses on those at greater risk. They make specific recommendations in an impressive paper that includes 52 references.

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Will our digital moment continue? In the second selection, we look at a new JAMA Psychiatry paper by Dr. Jay H. Shore (of the University of Colorado) and his co-authors, who argue that it should. They note that many clinics and hospitals have embraced telepsychiatry. He argues that, with the right approach, we could have “a golden era for technology in psychiatry in which we are able to harmonize the benefits of telepsychiatry and virtual care while maintaining the core of our treatment: that of human connectedness.”

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Jessica Gold (of the University of Washington in St. Louis) considers stigma around mental illness. In this time of COVID, she wonders if it will fade further, providing some evidence from social media. She sees opportunity for better: “Instead of looking at the post-COVID-19 mental health future through a lens of inevitable doom, we can, and should, use this moment as the impetus for the changes that mental health care has always pushed for.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: COVID & Suicide (JAMA Psych); also, Digital Mental Health (JMIR) and Solomon on COVID & Depression (NYT)

From the Editor

Will suicide rates rise with COVID? How will mental health care delivery change? Are we overlooking the most vulnerable?

This week’s Reading will focus on the latest in the literature on the COVID and mental health care, with three selections.

In the first, we consider a paper on COVID and suicide. In a JAMA Psychiatry paper, Mark A. Reger (of University of Washington) and his co-authors consider the impact of the global emergency on suicide. They are practical, and explain that there are clear opportunities for suicide prevention. In responding to COVID, they call for a “comprehensive approach that considers multiple US public health priorities, including suicide prevention.”

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What is the role of digital mental health during and after this pandemic? In the second selection, we consider a new JMIR Mental Health paper. Dr. John Torous (of Harvard University) and his co-authors note the greater use of telemental health, apps, and other forms of e-mental health care. They write: “The COVID-19 crisis and global pandemic may be the defining moment for digital mental health, but what that definition will be remains unknown.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at an essay by Andrew Solomon. The Pulitzer Prize-finalist author discusses pandemic and mental health, worrying that those in need may be overlooked. “When everyone else is experiencing depression and anxiety, real, clinical mental illness can get erased.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: COVID & Serious Mental Illness (JAMA Psych); also, Mental Health Care (Lancet Psych) and Hospital Care (Neurosci Bull)

From the Editor

In a heavy moment, a colleague of mine observed that spring is finally here, but none of us can enjoy it. This comment is one of many made over these past weeks about our new life. Our businesses are closed; our elderly are hiding; our colleagues are on the front lines and at risk. And, yes, the simple pleasure of enjoying a spring day – the warmth in the air, the song of the birds – has been lost, at least for now.

This week’s Reading has three selections, and each touches on the intersection between the pandemic and mental health care. Our new life means new challenges as we attempt to deliver mental health care services.

In the first selection, we consider a paper on COVID and serious mental illness. In a JAMA Psychiatry paper, Dr. Benjamin G. Druss (of Emory University) writes: “Disasters disproportionately affect poor and vulnerable populations, and patients with serious mental illness may be among the hardest hit.”

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What is the role of mental health care during this pandemic? In the second selection, we consider a new Lancet Psychiatry editorial. The editors write: “Although the mental health field’s interest in trauma has greatly expanded in recent decades, our scientific understanding of trauma has lagged far behind, including our understanding of its definition and aetiology, and, importantly, of how to effectively intervene.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a letter by Dr. Yuncheng Zhu (of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine) and his co-authors. They discuss inpatient care and the risk and prevention of infection. “Panic is inevitable among patients and medical staff and timely mental health care for dealing with the novel coronavirus outbreak is urgently needed.”

DG

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