It’s our tradition that we begin the New Year by reviewing the best of the past year; so, this week, we look back at 2022.
But a bit of a break from tradition: this year, we haven’t organized the papers by different categories, instead choosing eight great papers. Some have been published in big journals; others, not so big. They cover a variety of topics, from prevention to cutting-edge treatments. The one common thread: all are clinically relevant. And, yes, there is a Person of the Year. Spoiler alert: he had a big career and likes to mention Groucho Marx.
An observation about this past year: the quality of scholarship was very high. We’ve picked good papers – but could have picked scores of others. It’s a comment we’ve made in past years, and a good reason for optimism as our field grows more sophisticated and relevant.
In a recent survey, 20% identified fear of death as a major concern with ECT. One of the oldest treatments in psychiatry is also its most stigmatized and feared.
And is it also underappreciated? Is ECT a lifesaver for those who are suicidal? In the first selection, Dr. Tyler S. Kaster (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors attempt to answer that question with a propensity score-weighted, retrospective cohort study comparing those who received ECT and those who didn’t, using Ontario data. In The Lancet Psychiatry, they write: “1 year after discharge from a psychiatric hospital, patients with depression who were exposed to electroconvulsive therapy had a nearly 50% reduction in the relative risk of death by suicide when compared with those who had not been exposed.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.
In the second selection, Dr. Victor Pereira-Sanchez (of the New York University) and his co-authors look at violence against European psychiatric trainees. In this Academic Psychiatry paper, drawing on survey data, they conclude: “Violence from patients is reported by many psychiatric trainees across countries in Europe, with very frequent verbal abuse and worrisome figures of physical and sexual assaults.”
Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy (the US Surgeon General) writes about burnout and American health care workers. In The New England Journal of Medicine, he offers a practical plan, with an emphasis on reducing administrative burden, bettering mental health for health care workers, and changing culture to support well-being. He argues that action is needed: “we cannot allow ourselves to fail health workers and the communities they serve.”
It’s a Reading of the Week tradition that we begin the New Year by reviewing the best of the past year; so, this week, we look back at 2021.
As with past annual reviews, I’ve organized papers into different categories – though there is one common thread: all the papers are clinically relevant and practical. And, yes, there is a person of the year. Spoiler alert: he was fond of bow ties and thinking outside the box.
And an observation about 2021: the quality of scholarship was very high. I’ve picked ten papers – but it would have been possible to pick scores more. Psychiatry continues to grow more sophisticated with each passing year.
The first treatment of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was administered in 1938. Yet decades later, people still debate the safety of this treatment; a study found that one in five patients reported fear of death as a major concern. (And, yes, so many of our patients have seen that movie.)
In our first selection, we consider a new and important paper on this topic, just published in The Lancet Psychiatry. Dr. Tyler S. Kaster (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors attempt to answer the safety question by comparing those who received ECT with those who didn’t in the context of depression and inpatient care. “In this population-based study of more than 5000 admissions involving electroconvulsive therapy for inpatients with depression, the rate of serious medical events within 30 days was very low among those exposed to electroconvulsive therapy and a closely matched unexposed group (0.5 events per person-year vs 0.33 events per person-year), with those who received electroconvulsive therapy having a numerically lower risk of medical complications.” We look at the big study, with an eye on clinical implications.
ECT machine (cira 1950)
In the other selection, we look at a new essay from The New Yorker. Writer Donald Antrim – an accomplished novelist and a MacArthur fellow – discusses his depression, his suicidal thoughts, and his decision to opt for ECT. He notes that after treatment: “I felt something that seemed brand new in my life, a sense of calm, even happiness.”
This week, we have three selections. The first is a paper about inpatient ECT – an important topic. And the study – just published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry – has interesting findings, including that ECT is not particularly commonly performed (for just 1 out of 10 inpatients with depression). But this new paper by Dr. Tyler S. Kaster (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors also touches on the larger issue of equity. We consider it – and the questions the study raises.
The second selection is an essay from Policy Options. Drs. Scott Patten (of the University of Calgary) and Stan Kutcher (of Dalhousie University) bemoan the state of mental health data during the pandemic. “There has been a disturbing acceptance of trivial and often misrepresented information, delivered from sub-optimal surveys and problematic interpretation of results.”
Finally, we consider an essay by Dr. Colleen M. Farrell (of Cornell University). She discusses COVID-19 – she is working in the ICU of a major New York City hospital during the pandemic – but also ties to the larger issues of public health, advocacy, and the role of medicine. “As I tend to my patients in the Covid ICU, I struggle to process reality. The attending physicians who are my teachers have few answers; this disease is new to all of us.”
Please note that there will be no Reading next week.