Tag: mindfulness

Reading of the Week: Mindfulness Self-Help for Depression? The New JAMA Psych Study; Also, Elderly Overdoses (JAMA Psych) and Sanford on Loss (JAMA)

From the Editor

He diagnosed himself. My patient suspected something was wrong, did some reading, and then completed a PHQ-9 survey (which he found on a website). But, like many, he struggled to get care.

The story is too familiar. Access to care is deeply problematic. Not surprisingly, then, low-cost interventions are of interest, with much work focused on CBT. What about mindfulness? In the first selection, Clara Strauss (of the University of Sussex) and her co-authors attempt to answer that question with direct comparison of mindfulness and CBT. In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, they find: “practitioner-supported [mindfulness] was superior to standard recommended treatment (ie, practitioner-supported CBT) for mild to moderate depression in terms of both clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Keith Humphreys (of Stanford University) and Chelsea L. Shover (of the University of California, Los Angeles) look at overdose deaths in older Americans for JAMA Psychiatry. Drawing on a database, they find a quadrupling between 2002 and 2021. “Even though drug overdose remains an uncommon cause of death among older adults in the US, the quadrupling of fatal overdoses among older adults should be considered in evolving policies focused on the overdose epidemic.” 

And in the third selection, Dr. Ethan L. Sanford (of the University of Texas) writes about the loss of his infant daughter. In a deeply personal essay for JAMA, he describes her illness and death – and his re-evaluation of his career. “I sometimes wish every physician could understand the loss of a child. I wish they could understand how I miss Ceci achingly, how I miss her in my bones.”


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Reading of the Week: Mindfulness for Anxiety? The New JAMA Psychiatry Paper; Also, Sim in Med Ed (QT) and Dr. Sen on Burnout & Depression (NEJM)

From the Editor

Mindfulness is trendy. It’s offered at your local YMCA. There are mindfulness techniques in popular apps. Corporations offer sessions over the lunch hour.

But is it helpful? Millions of North Americans struggle with anxiety disorders. Could mindfulness help them? Is it an alternative for those who don’t want to take medications? In the first selection, Dr. Elizabeth A. Hoge (of Georgetown University) and her co-authors try to answer these questions. Their results have just been published in JAMA Psychiatry. In an RCT, they compare a form of mindfulness to the use of an SSRI. They write: “Our prospective randomized clinical trial found that MBSR was noninferior to escitalopram for the treatment of anxiety disorders.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In this week’s second selection, we look at a new Quick Takes podcast interview with CAMH’s Stephanie Sliekers and Dr. Petal Abdool (of the University of Toronto). They discuss simulation in mental health education, noting the potential. They also talk about their innovative work in this area. “We can create an environment that’s safe, predictable, consistent, standardized, and reproducible.”

In this week’s third selection, Dr. Srijan Sen (of the University of Michigan) writes about physician burnout. In a Perspective paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine, he argues that separating burnout from depression is problematic. He writes: “Expanding reform efforts to encompass depression and mental health more broadly will not reduce the urgency of reforming our health care system. Rather, it will increase the likelihood that physicians who are struggling can access the spectrum of available evidence-based individual interventions.”


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Reading of the Week: Prevention With Mindfulness for Kids? The New EBMH Study; Also, Ending Seclusion (Psych Services) & Morrison on Her Silence (CBC)

From the Editor

Our patients tell similar stories about their experiences with depression: of strained and lost relationships, of job opportunities that didn’t work out, of the pain of the illness itself.

Could all this be avoided? The attractiveness of prevention is obvious. In the first selection, Willem Kuyken (of the University of Oxford) and his co-authors describe a program focused on those 11 to 16 years of age. In this new EBMH paper, they use mindfulness training. The intervention is randomized, involving 84 schools. They conclude: “In a fully powered, rigorous, cluster randomised controlled trial we found no support for our hypothesis that school-based mindfulness training is superior in terms of mental health and well-being compared with usual provision over 1 year of follow-up in young people in secondary schools.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection from Psychiatric Services, Gregory M. Smith (of the Allentown State Hospital) and his co-authors analyze Pennsylvania’s move to eliminate seclusion and restraint events. Drawing on nine years of data, they conclude: “The findings of this study provide compelling evidence that uses of seclusion and restraints can be reduced or eliminated in both civil and forensic populations, with benefits to both the persons being served and their support staff.”

And, in the third selection, lawyer Helen Morrison considers mental illness and stigma. In this essay for CBC First Person, she notes her own journey and her fears about how people would react to her having bipolar disorder. She finds support with her faith group and others. She writes: “I want people to know that being diagnosed with a mental illness need not be earth-shattering. Faulty brain chemistry should be seen as just another chronic medical condition.”


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Reading of the Week: The Best of 2015 — Books, Papers, and Hope

From the Editor

This will be the last Reading of the Week for 2015. (The Readings will resume in a fortnight.)

A bit of housekeeping: the Reading of the Week is a labour of love. There is no industry support for this project – or, in fact, any funding. Still, it’s hardly my project. Many readers (particularly residents) suggested papers and made comments over this past year. I’m also deeply grateful for the support of several colleagues; Drs. David Goldbloom and Mark Fefergrad deserve particular mention. And my father and wife have been great editorial supports.

It’s a Reading of the Week tradition to close the year by highlighting the best of the past 12 months.

Looking over the Readings of this year, I’m struck by the diversity of the publications that I could draw selections from. Sure, the Readings of 2015 included papers from The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA Psychiatry. But they also included moving personal essays that were published in newspapers; The Economist (yes, The Economist) covered mental illness and the burden of disease well and thoughtfully; the best articles on global psychiatry appeared in The New York Times.

It wasn’t that long ago that we hoped that discussion of mental illness would move out of the shadows. Today, slowly but surely, it is. And so, 2015 closes after 48 Readings and on this hopeful note.

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Reading of the Week: Zen or Zoloft? Mindfulness vs. Meds for Relapse Prevention in Depression

Depression typically has a relapsing and recurrent course. Without ongoing treatment, individuals with recurrent depression have a high risk of repeated depressive relapses or recurrences throughout their life with rates of relapse or recurrence typically in the range 50–80%.

So begins this week’s Reading (which is attached). As is so often the case, the journal writing is understated.

50-80%. Wow.

Having been in practice for some years, many stories come to mind when considering this statistic.

Here’s one: a young woman with a challenging childhood who pulled her life together, kept an unplanned pregnancy, and then tried to do everything right for herself and her daughter. In her late 20s, she fell into a deep depression, attempted suicide, and had a long admission. And, after work on the inpatient unit and in the outpatient department, she returned to her life: free of symptoms, working full time, raising her daughter. Feeling well, she stopped her citalopram, and became sick again (and with an employer keen on her termination because – and this sounds like a 19th century novel – “she told me I look dead on the outside”).

It’s easy to say that she should have stayed on her medications. But many of our patients don’t. The reasons vary – the side effects are too strong, the concept of medications is unappealing, etc. – but the end result is so often the same.

What then are non-medication options for maintenance in patients with depression? This week’s Reading offers an interesting answer: mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

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