Tag: suicide

Reading of the Week: Cancer & Suicide & Good News – the New Transl Psychiatry Study; Also, AI & Therapy Dropouts, and Bland on Her Father & His D-Day

From the Editor

He was so overwhelmed by the cancer diagnosis that he didn’t eat or sleep for days. “It was my worst nightmare.” My patient isn’t alone in that devastating experience, of course – the diagnosis and treatment of cancer is a major life event. Not surprisingly, the suicide rate is roughly double that of the general population in the United States. But with increasing psychosocial interventions, how has this changed over time?

In the first selection, Qiang Liu (of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences) and his co-authors attempt to answer that question in a new paper for Translational Psychiatry. Drawing on 40 years of data and a major US database, they analyzed the journeys of five million cancer patients, discovering good news. “We revealed a gradual increase in cancer-related suicide rates from 1975 to 1989, followed by a gradual decrease from 1989 to 2013, and a marked decrease from 2013 to 2017.” Indeed, between 2013 and 2017, the rate dropped by 27%. We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Sakiko Yasukawa (of the Sony Corporation) and her co-authors aimed to reduce dropouts from psychotherapy using AI. In a new paper for BMJ Mental Health, they describe an RCT involving 149 people. “The results suggest that the personalised messages sent by the chatbot helped participants control their pace in attending lessons and improve programme adherence without human guidance.”

Last week marked the anniversary of D-Day with ceremonies, including in Normandy. What was the toll on those who returned home? In the third selection, an essay published in The Globe and Mail, Normanne Bland describes her father and his time in Europe. She writes about him with mixed feelings, coloured by his mental health problems, including PTSD. “I had a complicated relationship with my father. I was proud of his service but I loathed his drinking.”

There will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicide Attempts in the Healthy – the New JAMA Psych Study; Also, Polypharmacy & Youth, and Coyle on His Sobriety & Mulroney’s

From the Editor

Overwhelmed by the divorce, she made a serious attempt on her life, saved from certain death by a police officer who was running late for work and drove through an industrial area of Scarborough. After days of observation, I concluded that she had an unfortunate life circumstance, but not a psychiatric disorder.

How commonly do people without mental disorders attempt suicide? What can be done to help them? Dr. Maria A. Oquendo (of the University of Pennsylvania) and her co-authors try to answer these questions in a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. In their study of healthy individuals and suicide attempts, they drew on a US database involving more than 36 000 people who had attempted suicide. “An estimated 19.6% of individuals who attempted suicide did so despite not meeting criteria for an antecedent psychiatric disorder.” We consider the study and its implications.

A healthy individual – at risk for a suicide attempt?

In the second selection, Yueh-Yi Chiang (of the University of Maryland) and her co-authors focus on youth and polypharmacy in a new JAMA Network Open research letter. Concerningly, past work has suggested that polypharmacy is growing more common in the young. Chiang et al. tapped Medicaid data from one US state including almost 127 000 youth. “In this cross-sectional study, we observed a 4% increased odds of psychotropic polypharmacy per year from 2015 to 2020, indicating growing concomitant use of multiple psychotropic classes.”

And in the third selection, reporter Jim Coyle writes about former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the Toronto Star. The essay is deeply personal – Coyle discusses his own problems with alcohol and his connection with the former prime minister, who had also struggled with it. “Mulroney knew that alcoholism is no respecter of rank or status, that alcoholics understand each other across any divide, and better than anyone else can.”

There will be no Readings for the next two weeks.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Employee Well-being & Corporate Strategies – the new Industrial Relations Paper; Also, Physician Burnout and Moyles on Suicide

From the Editor

Mindfulness programs, apps for sleep, resilience training. More and more corporations are offering these types of wellness interventions. Indeed, employee mental health services have become a billion-dollar industry. As reporter Ellen Barry recently observed in The New York Times: “These programs are a point of pride for forward-thinking human resource departments, evidence that employers care about their workers.” But are employees actually feeling better?

In a new paper for Industrial Relations Journal, William J. Fleming (of the University of Oxford) used survey data involving more than 46 000 British employees from 233 organizations, and considered several well-being efforts – including, yes, mindfulness programs, apps for sleep, and resilience training. He looked at several subjective well-being indicators. “Results suggest interventions are not providing additional or appropriate resources in response to job demands.” We look at the study and its implications.

In the second selection, Marcus V. Ortega (of Harvard University) and his co-authors look at physician burnout over time, drawing on US survey data for JAMA Network Open. With the pandemic, not unexpectedly, they found that physicians reported more burnout. “Findings of this survey study suggest that the physician burnout rate in the US is increasing.”

And in the third selection, author Trina Moyles writes about her brother and his suicide in a deeply personal essay for The Globe and Mail. She discusses her grief, the reaction of others, and her attempts at finding closure. She argues that we need to speak more openly about this topic. “Suicide: The word fires like a gunshot, so I’ve found myself whispering it.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Improving Self-Esteem in Youth – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Black Females & Suicide and Dr. Jon Hunter on the End

From the Editor

Can we help youth before the onset of full disorders to build skills and avoid deeper problems? Several school-based efforts, offering DBT and mindfulness skills, have been tried without much success. Ecological momentary interventions (EMIs) – provided to patients during their everyday lives and in natural settings, giving unstructured recommendations with structured interventions – is a newer therapy that has gained attention.

But does it work? In a new paper for JAMA Psychiatry, Ulrich Reininghaus (of the University of Heidelberg) and his co-authors describe an RCT focused on youth with low self-esteem who have had past adversity, involving 174 Dutch participants. “A transdiagnostic, blended EMI demonstrated efficacy on the primary outcome of self-esteem and signaled beneficial effects on several secondary outcomes.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Victoria A. Joseph (of Columbia University) and her co-authors look at US suicide rates in Black females. In their American Journal of Psychiatry letter, they analyze suicides over two decades, drawing data on age and region from a national database. They conclude that: “increasing trends in suicide death among Black females born in recent years and underscores the need to increase mental health care access among Black girls and women, and to reduce other forms of structural racism.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Jon Hunter (of the University of Toronto) contemplates endings – including his ending – in a personal and moving paper for CMAJ. He notes the need to clean up his possessions. But what about his practice and the many patients that he has followed for years? “I’d rather not shy away from the uncertainty and loss of the ending, and to try to help one more time.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Health Care Workers & Suicide – the new JAMA Paper; Also, Esketamine vs Quetiapine for Treatment-Resistant Depression (NEJM)

From the Editor

Sure, we are biased – but ours is a different type of job. Working in health care can involve life and death situations and trying to help those who are at their most vulnerable. The stakes can be high. 

But how does such work affect the workers themselves? Dr. Mark Olfson (of Columbia University) and his co-authors try to answer that question in a new paper for JAMA. In it, they analyze suicides among six different types of health care workers, including physicians, by drawing on a US data that offers a nationally representative sample from 2008 to 2019, including 1.84 million people. “Relative to non-health care workers, registered nurses, health technicians, and health care support workers in the US were at increased risk of suicide.” We consider the paper and its implications.

And in the other selection, Dr. Andreas Reif (of the University Hospital Frankfurt) and his co-authors focus on treatment-resistant depression. In this new paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine, they report on the findings from a study where 676 patients were randomized to either esketamine nasal spray or an antipsychotic augmenting agent in addition to an antidepressant. “In patients with treatment-resistant depression, esketamine nasal spray plus an SSRI or SNRI was superior to extended-release quetiapine plus an SSRI or SNRI with respect to remission at week 8.” We also look at the accompanying editorial.

DG

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Reading of the Week: DBT for Youth with Bipolar – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Involuntary Care and Dr. Gibbons on the Truths About Suicide

From the Editor

Nine! 

This month, the Reading of the Week celebrates a big birthday, its ninth. The first Reading was emailed out in September 2014. Many thanks for your ongoing interest and support. I’m looking forward to the next nine years.

Many young people with bipolar attempt suicide. What can be done to help them? In the first selection, Tina R. Goldstein (of the University of Pittsburgh) and her co-authors attempt to answer that question in a just-published JAMA Psychiatry paper. In their RCT involving youth with bipolar spectrum disorder, participants were enrolled in DBT or they received standard-of-care psychological support. “These findings support DBT as the first psychosocial intervention with demonstrated effects on suicidal behavior for adolescents with bipolar spectrum disorder.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, journalist and bestselling author Anna Mehler Paperny discusses coercive care in a new Quick Takes podcast interview. Mehler Paperny’s perspective on involuntary care is informed by her writing on the issue – and her lived experience. She worries that public debate may be driven by a desire to address public disorder rather than genuinely prioritizing the well-being of those with mental illness. “Coercive care is having a moment.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Rachel Gibbons (of the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists) considers suicide in a new BJPsych Bulletin paper. She opens by disclosing that three of her patients died by suicide early in her career. She then reviews “truths” about suicide. “In research we conducted, around two-thirds of psychiatrists and other clinicians felt it was their job to predict suicide. Our fantasy that we can do this, and our fear that we can’t, becomes a constant preoccupation in our work, distracts us from providing therapeutic care and closes our hearts to those in distress.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: ADHD & Substance Outcomes – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Suicide & the Impact on Psychiatrists and Foulkes on Her Anxiety & Our Times

From the Editor

Stimulants are commonly prescribed to children with ADHD. Do they protect kids against future substance misuse? Or, having been exposed early to stimulants, are these patients more likely to develop substance problems in adulthood?

Past studies have attempted to answer these questions but have been limited by study design. In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Brooke S. G. Molina (of the University of Pittsburgh) and her co-authors take a fresh look. In a cohort study involving 547 students, some of whom were treated with stimulants while others received behavioural therapy during the first period, Molina et al. look at outcomes when these participants are in their mid 20s. “This study found no evidence that stimulant treatment was associated with increased or decreased risk for later frequent use of alcohol, marijuana, cigarette smoking, or other substances used for adolescents and young adults with childhood ADHD.” We consider the study and its implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Juveria Zaheer (of the University of Toronto) discusses patient suicide in a new Quick Takes podcast interview. Focusing on the impact on psychiatrists and residents of psychiatry, she draws from the literature, including a study she recently senior authored for The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. She notes common reactions by psychiatrists and residents, including guilt and shock. And Dr. Zaheer talks about her own experience. “I’ll never forget when it happened.” 

And in the third selection, Lucy Foulkes (of the University of Oxford) writes about anxiety and current approaches. In a Guardian essay, she notes her own history as an “anxious teen” and wonders if life is better for today’s adolescents, with awareness campaigns but not necessarily meaningful services. “We are now in a situation where many teens know or believe they are anxious but aren’t getting the help they need to manage it.”

The Reading of the Week has formal partnerships with 14 postgraduate programs and, today, we welcome PGY1s who are joining us from across Canada.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Clozapine Monitoring – the New BJP Paper; Also, Suicide Trends Among Adolescents (CJP) and Van Gogh’s Ear & Iconography (ANZJP)

From the Editor

“Despite its strong evidence base, clozapine remains grossly under-prescribed in clinical practice. Although reasons for this are multifaceted, a commonly cited influence is the need for mandatory haematological monitoring.” So notes Ebenezer Oloyede (of the University of Oxford) and his co-authors in a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. Could the requirements be simplified? 

In the first selection, Oloyede et al. look at outcomes of 569 patients on clozapine when, during the pandemic, routine blood monitoring was changed. In this mirror-image cohort study, they find: “[E]xtending the haematological monitoring interval from 4-weekly to 12-weekly did not increase the incidence of life-threatening agranulocytosis in people taking clozapine.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Rachel H. B. Mitchell (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors analyze Canadian data on suicide and sex differences. In this Canadian Journal of Psychiatry research article, they find that suicide rates among female adolescents aged 10 to 14 years surpassed similarly aged males in 2011. “The marked and consistent trend of rising suicide rates among adolescent females aged 10 to 14 years in Canada signals increased distress and/or maladaptive coping in this segment of the population.” 

And in the third selection, Alexander Smith (of the University of Bern) and his co-authors write about Vincent van Gogh. In an Editorial for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, they describe his mental health struggles but also their commercialization. “Vincent van Gogh’s ear has generated an intrinsic cultural currency. Yet, the psychiatric vulnerabilities encompassed by his act of self-harm are not always sensitively considered or acknowledged.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Are Involuntary Admissions on the Rise? The New CJP Paper; Also, Telepsychiatry (JAMA Psych) and Dr. Oh on Suicide (Acad Psych)

From the Editor

A recent New York Times article notes that adolescents are increasingly looking for information on mental health and turning to TikTok. Such is life at a time when stigma fades: people are curious, though not necessarily going to the best places for information.

But are we reaching people earlier in their illness experience? We hope that the answer is yes – a new paper with British Columbian data, however, suggests that police apprehensions are more common, as are involuntary admissions, indicating that more people are in crisis. In the first selection from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Jackson P. Loyal (of Simon Fraser University) and his co-authors draw on administrative databases and find a major shift: “While roughly half of the people hospitalized for mental health and substance use disorders were admitted voluntarily in 2008/2009, by 2017/2018 this fell to approximately one-third.” We look at the paper and its clinical implications.

British Columbia: a province of rivers, whales, and involuntary admissions

In the second selection, Dr. Carlos Blanco (of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, United States) and his co-authors consider the rise of telepsychiatry, noting that 39% of mental health care in the US is now virtual. In this new JAMA Psychiatry Viewpoint, “Expansion of telepsychiatry creates new opportunities to increase treatment access, while it poses overlapping challenges to multiple stakeholders…”

And in the third selection, Dr. Nicholas Zhenwei Oh (of the Ministry of Health Holdings, Singapore) writes personally and thoughtfully about the loss of a patient by suicide. He goes into detail on his own experience during training. “Patient suicide is possibly the great equaliser amongst psychiatrists, psychiatry trainees, and perhaps any other clinician who has experienced a patient’s suicide. My own experience came suddenly and unexpectedly, and it will likely leave a psychological scar as a grim reminder of one of the lowest points of my career.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Lithium & Renal Health – the New Lancet Psych Paper; Also, COVID & Suicides (ANZJP)

From the Editor

After starting lithium in the hospital, his life was transformed. My patient didn’t have another hospitalization, and he went back to excelling at his job and raising his young family.

There are many lithium success stories. But how safe is it for our patients’ kidneys? Though lithium has been used for decades, there is still controversy. We know that lithium can affect the kidneys, but how much renal change is naturally occurring (aging), due to psychiatric illnesses (like bipolar), or the medication itself?

In a new paper just published in The Lancet Psychiatry, Filip Fransson (of King’s College London) and his co-authors attempt to answer these questions with a cross-sectional cohort study drawing on 2,200 people from Sweden. They review kidney function over time for the general population, those with schizoaffective disorder and bipolar, and compare them to those on lithium. They find a significant connection between lithium and renal decline, but only after a decade of use. We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Nick Glozier (of The University of Sydney) and his co-authors consider suicide rates during the pandemic in a new research article for the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. They note the dire predictions – of a “suicide epidemic” – that weren’t realized, and consider why, noting several factors, including that the economic downturn was mitigated by government action. Ultimately, though, they write: “suicide is an inherently difficult (stochastic) event to predict.”

DG

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