Tag: prevention

Reading of the Week: Preventing Postpartum Depression in Pakistan – the New Nature Med Study; Also, Deaths of Despair and ChatGPT & Abstracts

From the Editor

Imagine that you are asked to design a program to prevent depression in a population at risk. Would you hire psychiatrists? Look to nurses? Tap the expertise of psychologists? All three?

In the first selection from Nature Medicine, Pamela J. Surkan (of Johns Hopkins University) and her co-authors describe a study that focused on prevention. As they worked in Pakistan – a nation with few mental health providers by Western standards – they chose to train lay people, teaching them to deliver CBT. In their single-blind, randomized controlled trial, 1 200 women who were pregnant and had anxiety (but not depression) were given enhanced usual care or CBT. “We found reductions of 81% and 74% in the odds of postnatal MDE and of moderate-to-severe anxiety…” We discuss the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Joseph Friedman and Dr. Helena Hansen (both of the University of California, Los Angeles) look at deaths of despair in the United States in a research letter for JAMA Psychiatry. Their work builds on the idea that some deaths are related to the hopelessness of a person’s social or economic circumstance; past publications focused largely on White Americans. Friedman and Hansen drew on more than two decades of data, including ethnicity, from a US database, finding a different pattern and that: “Rising inequalities in deaths of despair among American Indian, Alaska Native and Black individuals were largely attributable to disproportionate early mortality from drug- and alcohol-related causes…”

A recent survey finds that psychiatrists see AI as potentially helpful with paperwork and diagnosing patients. But could AI help you keep up with the literature? In the third selection from Annals of Family Medicine, Dr. Joel Hake (of the University of Kansas) and his co-authors used ChatGPT to produce short summaries of studies, then evaluated their quality, accuracy, and bias. “We suggest that ChatGPT can help family physicians accelerate review of the scientific literature.”


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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: Cool but Useful? VR Therapy for Psychosis; Also, Preventing Child Abuse (QT) and Renaming Schizophrenia (Lancet Psych)

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.”


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Reading of the Week: Suicide and Ethnic Groups – the New Lancet Psychiatry Paper; Also, Cannabis & the Differential (JAMA Int Med)

From the Editor

Discrimination. Microaggression. Stigma. Patients in ethnic groups often face greater challenges and stresses than others. Do suicide rates differ? What are the implications for interventions?

These are good and important questions, yet the literature is thin. In a new paper for The Lancet Psychiatry, Isabelle M. Hunt (of the University of Manchester) and her co-authors consider suicide rates by ethnic group in the UK, focused on those who have had contact with mental health care. Drawing on a large database, they find lower rates of suicide completions compared to White patients, but significant variation among the different groups. The authors see potential clinical implications: “Clinicians and the services in which they work should be aware of the common and distinct social and clinical needs of minority ethnic patients with mental illness.”

fd1c8d415f97df29c61ed70a727e8974The Death of Socrates – and, yes, White patients died by suicide more

In the second selection, Dr. Anees Bahji (of the University of Calgary) and his co-authors consider cannabis use disorder in a patient who presents with cannabis hyperemesis syndrome. Their JAMA Internal Medicine paper is very practical; they suggest: “a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates psychotherapy, withdrawal symptom management, and close follow-up in the primary care setting is recommended for treatment of cannabis-related harms.”


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Reading of the Week: Can We Prevent Depression in Older Adults? The New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Homeless Youth and Mental Health (CJP)

From the Editor

It’s disabling and difficult to treat.

Can we prevent depression in older adults? Prevention is, of course, an important goal for any psychiatric disorder, reducing distress and health care costs. And the morbidity of major depressive disorder is great. A patient recently commented on his depressive episode: “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

Dr. Michael R. Irwin (of the University of California, Los Angeles) and his co-authors offer interesting data in a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. Focused on elderly adults with insomnia, they provided a form of CBT in an RCT. They find: “In this trial of older adults without depression but with insomnia disorder, delivery of CBT-I prevented incident and recurrent major depressive disorder by more than 50% compared with SET, an active comparator.” We review this big paper and its clinical implications.

unknownLess time with depression, more time for dancing

In the other selection, we consider homeless youth. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, Sean A. Kidd (of the University of Toronto) et al. draw on national survey data. “Youth homelessness is a wicked social problem with variable definitions, multiple determinants, corollaries, and outcomes.” They note the connection to sexual violence and make policy recommendations.


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Reading of the Week: Can British Reforms Prevent Mental Illness? What Should Every Physician Know About Burnout? Also, Cardiac Surgery (and Us)

From the Editor

Governments in Canada and across the west have committed themselves to spending more on mental health care. But how should we spend this new money? Should we focus on people earlier in the illness experience? Should we fund evidence-based treatments like CBT? Should education campaigns aimed at reducing stigma be the priority?

UK Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced new mental health reforms. She explained: “It’s time to rethink how we tackle this issue, which is why I believe the next great revolution in mental health should be in prevention.” In this week’s first selection, we look at Prime Minister May’s announcement, and we ask: should Canadian policymakers look to 10 Downing Street for mental health ideas?

larry-cat-10-downing-street10 Downing Street

Also, this week, we consider an interview with Dr. Treena Wilkie, CAMH’s Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Medical Affairs and Practice, who talks about physician burnout. Dr. Wilkie closes with a few words of advice for our colleagues: “There’s help available.”

And, in our third selection, The New York Times investigates deaths in an American hospital. The article isn’t about psychiatry (it’s about health care). But could it be about the problems in your hospital?

This will be the last Reading of the academic year. To my young colleagues who have just graduated: I hope you enjoy your careers in psychiatry as much as I have.

There will be no Reading next week. Should you fall off the distribution list of these Readings, please don’t hesitate to pop me an email.



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Reading of the Week: Is Cannabis Helpful? Can We Prevent Depression? What’s It Like to be Depressed & in Medicine?

From the Editor

In most Readings of the Week, a paper or essay is selected and then discussed. This week, we return to an older format, and look at several selections, offering an overview of a few topics.

The selections ask thought-provoking questions:

Is cannabis helpful?

Can we prevent depression?

What’s it like to be depressed – and in medicine?


Cannabis: Hype or Help?



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Reading of the Week: Can Lithium in Drinking Water Help Prevent Dementia? The Kessing et al. Paper from JAMA Psychiatry

From the Editor

Since the extraordinary work of John Cade some seven decades ago, lithium has been used as a medication to help people with bipolar. But the history of lithium use is longer – for many years, people have understood that it has medicinal value, and bottled water containing lithium was popular at the turn of the twentieth century (long before Dr. Cade started medical school).

We know that lithium affects the brain in many ways (for example, it slows apoptosis, or programmed cell death); we also that know that dementia can work on those same pathways, but in a negative way (it may sped up apoptosis). In this week’s selection, the authors wonder if lithium can prevent dementia. It’s a big question – and the authors tap a big national database. They find a non-linear correlation between lithium in drinking water and dementia.

Tap water: A potential prevention for dementia if it has lithium in it?

So – does this paper represent something of a breakthrough? We look at the paper and an editorial to answer that question.

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Reading of the Week: Can a Fake Intervention Help Real Pain? Also, Preventing Depression

From the Editor 

“To a degree which has never been suspected, what powerful influence upon diseases is produced by mere imagination.” British physician John Haygarth wrote those words more than two centuries ago when considering the placebo effect.

Is it possible to successfully treat people with placebo in an open-label trial? That is, if people know they are taking placebo, will they still experience the benefit of placebo?

painCan a fake intervention help real pain?

In this week’s selection, we look at a new study where participants were offered placebo for back pain. Spoiler alert: it worked.

And, in a new feature for the Reading of the Week, we include an invited letter to the editor from Dr. Albert H. C. Wong who writes about the best way of preventing depression.

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Reading of the Week: Can We Prevent Psychosis? Part 2 of 2

From the Editor

Is an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure? As noted last week, psychiatry tends to emphasize the treatment of illness, not its prevention. But preventing illness is our ultimate goal.

Can we prevent psychotic illness?

Prevention is built on two things: we need to identify at risk individuals, and then we need to use appropriate measures to prevent the illness.

Last week. The psychosis risk calculator.

This week. Cost-effective prevention.

In this week’s Reading, we look at a paper that considers CBT to prevent psychosis in an ultra high-risk group; the paper also considers the cost-effectiveness of the intervention. So is Ben Franklin right in arguing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? The paper doesn’t weigh in on Franklin, of course, but it does find that CBT is economically sound with an 83% likelihood of reducing the transition to psychosis and at a lower cost.

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