Tagsuicide

Reading of the Week: Suicide and Schizophrenia – Across Life Span; Also, Transgender-Inclusive Care (QT), and the NYT on Chatbots

From the Editor

This week, we have three selections.

In the first, we consider suicide and schizophrenia. In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Dr. Mark Olfson (of Columbia University) and his co-authors do a cohort study across life-span, tapping a massive database. They find: “the risk of suicide was higher compared with the general US population and was highest among those aged 18 to 34 years and lowest among those 65 years and older.” The authors see clear clinical implications: “These findings suggest that suicide prevention efforts for individuals with schizophrenia should include a focus on younger adults with suicidal symptoms and substance use disorders.”

In the second selection, we consider transgender-inclusive care, looking at a new Quick Takes podcast. Drs. June Lam and Alex Abramovich (both of the University of Toronto) comment on caring for members of this population. “Trans individuals are medically underserved and experience, poor mental health outcomes, high rates of disease burden – compared to cisgender individuals.”

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Finally, in our third selection from The New York Times, reporter Karen Brown writes about chatbots for psychotherapy, focusing on Woebot. The writer quotes psychologist Alison Darcy about the potential of these conversational agents: “If we can deliver some of the things that the human can deliver, then we actually can create something that’s truly scalable, that has the capability to reduce the incidence of suffering in the population.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicide and Gender in Canada; Also, Access and Immigrants (CJP), and Chok on Variations on a Theme (CMAJ)

From the Editor

This week, we have three selections; all are from Canadian publications.

Suicide rates have been declining in this country. In the first selection, Sara Zulyniak (of the University of Calgary) and her co-authors look at suicide by age and gender, drawing on almost two decades’ worth of data. In their analysis, there is a surprising finding: “The suicide rates in females aged 10 to 19 and 20 to 29 were increasing between 2000 and 2018. In comparison, no male regression results indicated significantly increasing rates.” This research letter, just published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, is short and relevant.

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In the second selection, also from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Joanna Marie B. Rivera (of Simon Fraser University) and her co-authors consider access to care. They focus on immigrants and nonimmigrants, noting differences in the way care is provided for those with mood disorders. “People with access to team-based primary care are more likely to report mental health consultations, and this is especially true for immigrants. Unfortunately, immigrants, and especially recent immigrants, are more likely to see a doctor in solo practice or use walk-in clinics as a usual place of care.”

Finally, in our third selection from CMAJ, Dr. Rozalyn Chok (of the University of Alberta), a pianist who is now a resident of paediatrics, describes a performance at a mental hospital. “I still hear exactly how it sounded on that tinny upright piano. I feel the uneven weighting of the keys, remember how difficult it was to achieve the voicing – the balance of melody and harmony – I wanted.” She reflects on the piece she played, and its impact on a patient.

DG

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Reading of the Week: The Resident’s Suicide – a New Paper from NEJM; Also, Help Seeking in Medical Education (JAMA Int Med)

From the Editor

“Bobby became my intern, and I was his senior resident. It was a role I cherished, and I tried to teach him all I could about caring for multiple sick patients simultaneously and navigating the systems, personalities, and politics of a large Manhattan hospital.”

Dr. Richard E. Leiter (of Harvard University) writes these words in a New England Journal of Medicine paper, this week’s first selection. He discusses loss – specifically, the death by suicide of the junior resident he was working with. On Twitter, Dr. Leiter commented that it took him six years to write about this death. Reading over the paper, we can understand why; the essay is deeply personal and moving. It also seeks to be constructive: Dr. Leiter calls for change. “Seeking to improve the lives of others shouldn’t cost our trainees their own.”

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Of course, the NEJM article isn’t just about Bobby; it touches on the culture of medicine. Suicide, while always tragic, is rare in health care; untreated depression and substance problems are too common. In the second selection this week, we consider a paper recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Dr. Erene Stergiopoulos (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors note the mixed message of medical education: at once encouraging “wellness” but also criticizing time away. “Stigma surrounding depression is deeply embedded in medicine.” Importantly, Dr. Stergiopoulos and her co-authors makes three practical suggestions.

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On a pivot –

Since 2014, the Reading of the Week (ROTW) has been providing summaries and commentary on the latest in the psychiatric literature. Two years ago, we conducted a short survey to get your feedback. We are hoping to get more feedback to improve the Readings further.

We would invite you to join one of our online focus groups to hear your opinions and suggestions for improvement. If you are interested in participating, please email smit.mistry@camh.ca by April 12 with your preferred time slots from the following options – psychiatrists: April 21 at 4 pm or April 22 at 4 pm; residents: April 28 at 4 pm and April 29 at 4 pm. (Note: all times are in EST.) Time commitment: under an hour. If the above time slots do not work for you, please email Smit to arrange an interview time at your convenience, ideally between April 21 and April 30, 2021.

DG

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Reading of the Week: More COVID, More Mental Health Problems? Also, e-Cigarette Use (CJP) and Pappas on Her Olympics & Her Depression (NYT)

From the Editor

Will there be a pandemic after the pandemic? Some have wondered about the mental health consequences of COVID-19 – speculating that, in the future, there will be significant mental health problems. In a recent JAMA paper, Simon et al. argued: “The magnitude of this [mental health] second wave is likely to overwhelm the already frayed mental health system, leading to access problems, particularly for the most vulnerable persons.” (That paper was discussed in a past Reading.)

In the first selection, we consider a new paper from Lancet Psychiatry. Kuan-Yu Pan (of Vrije Universiteit) and co-authors did a survey of people with psychiatric disorders, as well as people without. “We did not find evidence that there was a strong increase in symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic in those with a higher burden of disorders. In fact, changes in scores from before to during the pandemic indicated increasing symptom levels in people without mental health disorders, whereas changes of symptom levels were minimal or even negative in individuals with the most severe and chronic mental health disorders.” Should we be reassured by the Pan et al. study?

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In the second selection, we consider a research letter from Dr. Scott B. Patten (of the University of Calgary) and his co-authors. Drawing on survey data, they describe the pattern of use of e-cigarettes, noting that they were originally intended for harm reduction. “In 2017, 15.5% of e-cigarette users reported that they had never smoked, suggesting a de novo pattern of substance use. By 2019, this proportion had more than doubled to 36.7%.”

Finally, in the third selection, Olympian Alexi Pappas speaks about her mental health in a New York Times opinion video. The comments are very personal, and touch on her illness and recovery. “After the Olympics, I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. And it nearly cost me my life. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Please note that there will be no Reading for the next two weeks. Enjoy the holidays. And if you are looking for a last-minute gift for, perhaps, Hanukkah or Christmas or a way to thank co-workers after a tough year, consider CAMH’s Pet Therapy Calendar, available for just $15 (with the promotion code). Proceeds go to a good cause: the CAMH Volunteer Resources Pet Therapy Program. The calendar is beautifully done, and features great dogs, including Toulouse (my BFF). Here’s the link: https://store-camh.myshopify.com/products/pvol-cal.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Trends in Suicide Mortality in Canada (CJP); also, Suicide Prevention (Quick Takes) and Lawrence on Her Depression (Guardian)

From the Editor

Suicide is often discussed, but what do we know about the overall rate of completions? We hear that there are more suicides in the United States over the past few years – but was does the Canadian data say?

In the first selection, we consider a new paper by Mélanie Varin (of Indigenous Services Canada) and her co-authors. Drawing on a Canadian database, they consider suicide mortality. The good news: the suicide rate in Canada decreased by 24.0% between 1981 and 2017. But, in recent years, there hasn’t been a further decline.So – is the glass half full or half empty?

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In the second selection, we look further at suicide, considering a new podcast discussing suicide and suicide prevention. I talk with Dr. Juveria Zaheer (of the University of Toronto) about COVID-19, the literature, and, yes, her suggestions for clinical interviews. “If you have a room of one hundred people, one hundred people in that room have been affected by suicide.”

Dr. Rebecca Lawrence is a UK psychiatrist and we can assume that she has done many suicide risk assessments. In a Guardian essay – our third selection – she tells her story: as a person who struggled with mental illness, then made the decision to become a psychiatrist. “If my story helps anyone unsure of their capacity to take on the job, or worried about the ‘dark secret’ of their own psychological troubles, then I think it’s worth telling.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Physician Suicide – the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper and Editorial

From the Editor

“‘I Couldn’t Do Anything’: The Virus and an E.R. Doctor’s Suicide.”

So headlines a long article on the life and death of a New York doctor who had excelled at medicine – Dr. Lorna Breen oversaw an ER department, and was studying in a dual degree master’s program at Cornell University – but died during the COVID-19 pandemic. The front-page story ran last weekend in The New York Times.

Physician suicide. It’s a weighty topic, one that typically wasn’t discussed much in the past, in part because of the reluctance of physicians to acknowledge their own problems. But how often does it occur and is there a gender gap?

This week, we consider a new paper by Dr. Dante Duarte (of Harvard Medical School) and his co-authors. While previous papers have been published in this area, Duarte et al. are ambitious: they do a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies published over the last four decades. In the JAMA Psychiatry paper, they find: “suicide standardized morality ratios were high in female physicians and low in male physicians after 1980…”

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The paper runs with an editorial by Drs. Katherine J. Gold (of the University of Michigan) and Thomas L. Schwenk (of the University of Nevada). Putting the paper in a larger context, they write: “Suicide prevention is a moral responsibility of the entire medical profession.”

And a quick word of welcome to PGY1 residents who are joining us this week as part of our continued partnership with 12 Canadian residency programs from coast to coast to coast.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Rurality and Suicide (CJP); Also, COVID and Digital Practice (Quick Takes) and Haughton & Bromberg on Policing (Tor Star)

From the Editor

At times, it seems that we understand little about suicide.

That statement is vast, sweeping – and painfully true for us clinicians who aspire to do better with very blunt instruments. This week, we have three selections; the first is a systematic review and meta-analysis focused on suicide. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, Rebecca Barry (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors consider the potential link between suicide and rurality. Spoiler alert: they find a connection, at least for men. What are the implications for practice and policy?

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In the second selection, we consider a new podcast discussing our digital future. I talk with Dr. Jay Shore (of the University of Colorado), who chairs the APA’s Telepsychiatry Committee. We discuss the virtualization of mental health services, and contemplate a future of hybrid care. And, yes, he has tips on how to avoid “Zoom fatigue.”

In the third selection, activists Asante Haughton and Rachel Bromberg discuss alternatives to police responding to mental health crises, seeing a dedicated team tasked with “on-the-spot risk assessments, de-escalation, and safety planning for clients in crisis” and more. “By taking on these important tasks, this team will enable Toronto policing resources to be more effectively directed toward solving crimes, rather than providing social services.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicide Prevention in the Acute Care Setting (JAMA Psychiatry); Also, Gottlieb on Racism (Wash Post)

From the Editor

In the year before they suicide, more than 90% of people have had contact with some type of acute care – an ED visit, a trip to the family doctor, or an appointment at an outpatient specialty clinic. So how can we help people better? Given the contact, what can we do to reduce suicides?

This week, we have two selections; the first focuses on this question. In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Dr. Stephanie K. Doupnik (of the University of Pennsylvania) and her co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis of 14 studies that used brief suicide prevention interventions in acute care settings (think brief contact interventions like a phone call after an ED visit). They find an encouraging result: “In this meta-analysis, brief suicide prevention interventions were associated with reduced subsequent suicide attempts.” We consider the big paper, and the editorial that accompanies it.

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In the other selection, therapist Lori Gottlieb discusses race and therapy in a Washington Post essay. She examines her own biases, and the way they play out in her therapy session. “Here’s what we didn’t talk about [in school]: the racism that might take place inside the supposedly ‘safe space’ of our therapy rooms – our patients’ racism and our own.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week. Happy Canada Day.

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: COVID & Suicide (JAMA Psych); also, Digital Mental Health (JMIR) and Solomon on COVID & Depression (NYT)

From the Editor

Will suicide rates rise with COVID? How will mental health care delivery change? Are we overlooking the most vulnerable?

This week’s Reading will focus on the latest in the literature on the COVID and mental health care, with three selections.

In the first, we consider a paper on COVID and suicide. In a JAMA Psychiatry paper, Mark A. Reger (of University of Washington) and his co-authors consider the impact of the global emergency on suicide. They are practical, and explain that there are clear opportunities for suicide prevention. In responding to COVID, they call for a “comprehensive approach that considers multiple US public health priorities, including suicide prevention.”

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What is the role of digital mental health during and after this pandemic? In the second selection, we consider a new JMIR Mental Health paper. Dr. John Torous (of Harvard University) and his co-authors note the greater use of telemental health, apps, and other forms of e-mental health care. They write: “The COVID-19 crisis and global pandemic may be the defining moment for digital mental health, but what that definition will be remains unknown.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at an essay by Andrew Solomon. The Pulitzer Prize-finalist author discusses pandemic and mental health, worrying that those in need may be overlooked. “When everyone else is experiencing depression and anxiety, real, clinical mental illness can get erased.”

DG

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