From the Editor

Asking for a coffee. Passing strangers on a bus. Making eye contact at a grocery store. These tasks don’t seem particularly daunting but for those with major mental illness, they can be deeply unsettling. Some are left homebound.

In this week’s first selection, we look at a new Lancet Psychiatry paper by Daniel Freeman (of Oxford University) and his co-authors; in it, they detail an intervention where participants work through several tasks, like the ones named above. The coolness factor? It’s done through virtual reality (or VR). They find: “Automated VR therapy led to significant reductions in anxious avoidance of, and distress in, everyday situations compared with usual care alone.” We consider the paper and the larger implications.

Passing strangers on a bus: one of several tasks in gameChange

In the second selection, we weigh prevention in mental health care. Ainslie Heasman (of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health) joins me for a Quick Takes podcast interview. We discuss Talking for Change, which aims to prevent child sexual abuse with evidence-based interventions focused on high-risk populations – that is, “moving prevention upstream” in the words of the psychologist.

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Bruce M. Cohen (of Harvard University) and his co-authors consider psychiatric terms, noting that some are outdated. In a Lancet Psychiatry paper, they discuss schizophrenia and personality disorders. They write: “Any label can stigmatise, and there are no perfect terms, but that should not prevent changing to better ones. Words communicate how we conceptualise a disorder.”


Continue reading