Tagpandemic

Reading of the Week: Are Those with Mental Illness at More Risk of COVID? Also, a Podcast on Apps (QT) and Horton on Advocacy & Doctors (Macleans)

From the Editor

Are people with mental illness more likely to contract COVID-19? Are they at greater risk of dying?

With the pandemic in its eighth month, we think we have answers to these questions, but data is lacking. In the first selection, we consider a new paper, just published in World Psychiatry. QuanQiu Wang (of Case Western Reserve) and her co-authors analyzed a nation‐wide database of electronic health records of 61 million American patients, aiming to assess the impact of mental illness. “These findings identify individuals with a recent diagnosis of a mental disorder as being at increased risk for COVID‐19 infection, which is further exacerbated among African Americans and women, and as having a higher frequency of some adverse outcomes of the infection.”

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In the second selection, we consider a new podcast discussing digital tools. I talk with Dr. John Torous (of Harvard University). We discuss apps and mental health. And, yes, he has tips on how to pick apps for your patients and their families.

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a new essay by Dr. Jillian Horton (of the University of Manitoba). Should doctors “stay in their lanes?” She argues against the idea, championing a new activism. “So, to my brothers and sisters in medicine: forget about staying in our lane. This is our call to flood the freeways. We cannot stay parked in neutral. There is no more time.”

Please note: there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: COVID and a Mental-Health Second Wave; Also, Harry Potter & Suicide Prevention (CJP), and Bennett on Bipolar (Walrus)

From the Editor

There are more COVID-19 cases in the community – and in our hospitals and ICUs. What does it mean for mental health?

This week, we have three selections.

In the first, published in JAMA, Dr. Naomi M. Simon (of the NYU Grossman School of Medicine) and her co-authors write about the pandemic and the implications for mental health. They argue that there will be a second wave of mental health problems. “The magnitude of this second wave is likely to overwhelm the already frayed mental health system, leading to access problems, particularly for the most vulnerable persons.” Are they right – and what’s to be done?

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In the second selection, we look at a research letter from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Paula Conforti (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors consider a CBT intervention for school-age children to reduce suicidality and increase wellbeing. There’s a twist in the plot: the intervention is based on a Harry Potter novel. “This study found that a teacher-delivered, literature-based CBT skills curriculum was feasible and associated with reduced suicidality (ideation and behavior) in middle school-aged youth.”

Finally, in our third selection, we consider an essay by Andrea Bennett. In this Walrus essay, the writer discusses the possible link between bipolar and creativity. The essay is deeply personal. “I don’t dream about not being bipolar, because I don’t know where my self ends and where the illness begins – and if there is even really a difference.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Does COVID Affect Outcomes? Also, Depression & Behavioural Economics (JAMA Psych), and Crawford on Virtual Care (Walrus)

From the Editor

As we head into the second wave, are there lessons from the spring?

This week, we have three selections.

In the first, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, Dr. Seung Won Lee (of the Sejong University College of Software Convergence) and co-authors look at mental illness and COVID-19 in South Korea. Doing a cohort study, drawing on national databases, they wonder about diagnosis and clinical outcomes for those with mental illness. “Diagnosis of a mental illness was not associated with increased likelihood of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.” It’s a big finding – but is it relevant on this side of the Pacific?

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Can we nudge patients with depression to take medications? In the second selection, we look at a new JAMA Psychiatry research letter. Steven C. Marcus (of the University of Pennsylvania) and his co-authors offer financial incentives for medication compliance. They conclude: “In this pilot study, escalating incentives for daily antidepressant adherence significantly improved adherence compared with a control group during the critical first 6 weeks of treatment.”

Finally, in our third selection, we consider an essay by Dr. Allison Crawford (of the University of Toronto) from The Walrus. She writes about the change in mental health care with COVID-19, as virtual care has become the norm. “I take off my shoes so that I can enter softly and with an open heart. My patients can’t see my bare feet.”

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.

4anvfzqDepression treatment: helpful, like a lift from a friend?

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: ECT & Equity (CJP); also, COVID and Mental Health Surveys (Policy Options) and Farrell on Witnessing the Pandemic (Nation)

From the Editor

Who has better access to care?

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.

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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.

DG

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Reading of the Week: What do Google Searches Tell Us about Suicide & COVID? (CJP) Also, Bullock on Suicide (NEJM)

From the Editor

How will the pandemic impact mental health? Will we see more people with depression and PTSD? What about suicides?

In a recent JAMA Psychiatry paper, Mark A. Reger (of the University of Washington) and his co-authors argued that we may see a “perfect storm” with COVID-19, increasing the risk of suicide. A BMJ blog speculated that we could have a “pandemic after the pandemic,” as mental health problems grow even as the virus fades.

This week, we have two selections; the first focuses on suicide and the pandemic. Using an innovative approach – that is, considering Google searches for suicide and related terms, as a proxy for completions – the authors draw on American and international data. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, Dr. Mark Sinyor (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors find surprisingly “that the initial stages of the pandemic were accompanied by a substantial reduction in searches related to suicide, anxiety, and hopelessness with no change in searches for depression.”

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In the second selection, Dr. Justin L. Bullock (of the University of California, San Francisco) discusses suicide in The New England Journal of Medicine. The young doctor is very personal, describing his own struggles with mental illness. “‘I’m starting to get depressed,’ I told my sister emotionlessly. She began to cry, probably flashing back to the last time I was severely depressed, attempted suicide, and ended up in the ICU. I told her I was sad that my 2-year-old niece wouldn’t remember me. ‘Do you think I would ever let her forget you?’ she responded. We both cried.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Can Light Therapy Help with Bipolar Depression? Also, the Racism of COVID (BJP) & Gottlieb on the Toilet as the New Couch (NYT)

From the Editor

After his manic episode, the first patient I treated with bipolar disorder was low in mood for months, able to get out of bed, but not able to work. I remember him sitting in my office talking about feeling overwhelmed. For many people with bipolar disorder, the depressive episodes are long and debilitating. And for us clinicians, these episodes are difficult to treat. (I remember feeling overwhelmed, too.)

Can light therapy help?

The first selection seeks to answer that question. Light therapy, after all, has shown its utility in depression, including for those with a seasonal pattern to their lows. But bipolar depression? In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, Dr. Raymond W. Lam (of UBC) and his co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis. They included seven papers. “This meta-analysis of RCTs found positive but nonconclusive evidence that light therapy is efficacious and well tolerated as adjunctive treatment for depressive episodes in patients with BD.”

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Is the virus racist? In the second selection, we look at a provocative paper from The British Journal of Psychiatry written by Drs. Anuj Kapilashrami and Kamaldeep Bhui (both of Queen Mary University of London). Considering how COVID-19 affects certain groups more than others, they also note that mental illness is more common among minorities, and they argue that: “societal structures and disadvantage generate and can escalate inequalities in crises.” They offer a word of caution: “What is surprising is it takes a crisis to highlight these inequalities and for us to take note, only to revert to the status quo once the crisis is over. ”

Finally, we consider an essay from The New York Times. Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist, discusses her practice in a world of pandemic. “Suddenly, her sobs were drowned out by a loud whooshing sound.” She wonders if the toilet is the new couch.

DG

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Reading of the Week: What Can Past Coronaviruses Teach Us? Also, Sharing Notes (Lancet Psych) & Sediqzadah on Therapy in a Digital World (Globe)

From the Editor

As we consider the psychiatric needs arising from COVID-19, are there lessons to be drawn from past severe coronavirus infections?

The first selection seeks to answer that question.

In The Lancet Psychiatry, Dr. Jonathan P. Rogers (of the University College London) and his co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis of severe coronavirus infections with a focus on psychiatric presentations. They included papers covering SARS and MERS. “This review suggests, first, that most people do not suffer from a psychiatric disorder following coronavirus infection, and second, that so far there is little to suggest that common neuropsychiatric complications beyond short-term delirium are a feature.”

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Should mental health notes be shared with patients? In the second selection, we look at paper from The Lancet Psychiatry. Charlotte R. Blease (of Harvard Medical School) and her co-authors champion the idea. “Sharing clinical notes in mental health settings will be more complex than in other clinical specialties; however, for most patients it will be feasible and, if carefully implemented, an empowering tool that could improve care.”

Finally, we consider an essay from The Globe and Mail. Dr. Saadia Sediqzadah (of the University of Toronto), who is graduating from her psychiatry residency this month, discusses her training and the expectation that patients “present to the clinic.” Now practicing in a COVID-19 world, she writes about psychotherapy and her patients. “What would Freud say? I care less about that as we now contend with a very different world than his. The question I ask now is, how will we go back?”

DG

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Reading of the Week: How to Achieve Good Mental Health During Isolation (BJP)? Also, Bipolar Meds (AJP) & Qayyum on the Way to the Morgue (WBUR)

From the Editor

Millions of people are isolating themselves in North America, and across the world. We know that quarantine is linked to mental health problems like depression. So what advice should we be giving our patients – and our family and neighbours?

The first selection seeks to answer this question.

In The British Journal of Psychiatry, Rowan Diamond (of Warneford Hospital) and Dr. John Willan (of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) provide six suggestions, drawing from the literature and taking into account our collective situation. “Dame Vera Lynn, at the age of 103, said of this pandemic that ‘even if we’re isolated in person we can still be united in spirit,’ and the sense of purpose that may be engendered in self-isolation may paradoxically lead to improvements in the mental health of some individuals who may otherwise feel that they have lost their role in society.”

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How are we managing bipolar affective disorder? In the second selection, we look at a new American Journal of Psychiatry paper by Taeho Greg Rhee (of the University of Connecticut) and his co-authors, who draw on 20 years worth of data. “There has been a substantial increase in the use of second-generation antipsychotics in the outpatient psychiatric management of adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder, accompanied by a decrease in the use of lithium and other mood stabilizers.”

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Zheala Qayyum (of the US Army) considers her time working in New York City during the pandemic. “The first thing that struck me when I stepped into the hospital in Queens was the smell that hung in the air, in these seemingly sterile hospital corridors. It was death and disease.”

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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