TagThe Lancet Psychiatry

Reading of the Week: A Therapy for Pandemic Loneliness? Also, Getting Digital Psychiatry Right (Lancet Psych) and the History of Vaccines (NEJM)

From the Editor

I saw an older patient in the emergency room recently. He described feeling overwhelmed. Fearful of the pandemic, he explained that he had rarely left his apartment since it began. “I’m so isolated.”

Many find themselves in a similar situation. What could help? In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Maninder K. Kahlon (of The University of Texas at Austin) and co-authors describe a focused intervention involving laypeople doing an empathy-focused program by phone. Do the calls work? They found it reduced loneliness, anxiety, and depression. They note the potential: “The use of lay callers, deliberate but brief approach on training, and the use of ubiquitous telephones made the approach easily deployable and scalable.”

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In an editorial, The Lancet Psychiatry considers our digital moment. Though they note the trendiness of the idea of digital psychiatry, they urge us to push: “Come 2 years or 20, we want to stop talking about digital psychiatry’s potential for improving public mental health and start marking its clear clinical progress.”

Finally, in our third selection, we look at a new paper from The New England Journal of Medicine. Drs. Angela Desmond and Paul A. Offit (both of the University of Pennsylvania) consider the history of vaccines, and look ahead: “With the recent authorization of mRNA vaccines, we have entered the fifth era of vaccinology.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

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On a pivot –

Since 2014, the Reading of the Week 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 feedback again to improve the Readings.

We would like to invite you to join one of our online focus groups to hear your opinions and suggestions. 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, preferably between April 21 and April 30, 2021.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Mass Murder & Mental Illness – the New Psych Med Study; Also, Vaccinations in the EU (Lancet Psych), and Domise on MAiD and His Illness

From the Editor

“Mental illness may have been a factor.”

It’s just seven words, but they so often accompany reports of mass murder. And psychosis is mentioned more often than not. The message is clear: mental disorders, particularly psychotic disorders, are highly tied to violence.

In the first selection, we look at a new paper that reviews 120 years worth of mass murder, and distinguishes between gun violence and non-gun violence. Just published in Psychological Medicine, Gary Brucato (of Columbia University) and his co-authors have written an extraordinary paper. They also reach an important conclusion: “These results suggest that policies aimed at preventing mass shootings by focusing on serious mental illness, characterized by psychotic symptoms, may have limited impact.” We look at the big paper.

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In the second selection, from The Lancet Psychiatry, Dr. Livia J. De Picker (of the University of Antwerp) and her co-authors consider European countries and vaccination prioritization, with a focus on mental disorders. “Only four countries (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK) had some form of higher vaccination priority for outpatients with severe mental illness.”

And, in the third selection, writer Andray Domise considers mental illness and medical assistance in dying. In a personal essay for The Globe and Mail, he raises objections. Start here: he would have opted to die when he was unwell. He argues the whole legislative approach is wrong: “This is a country that continues to fail in respecting the humanity of people with disabilities. And rather than find strength of character to improve ourselves, the Canadian government is set to fall back on egregious historical precedent by offering death instead.”

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: Cannabis for Mental Illness (CJP)? Also, Cannabidiol for the Cannabis Use Disorder (Lancet Psych) & Love on the Police (Globe)

From the Editor

“Should I take cannabis for my mental illness?”

Our patients ask this question – in our EDs, inpatient wards, and outpatient clinics. We shouldn’t be surprised. Cannabis is now legal, and private industry pushes the medicinal benefits of cannabis. But what does the literature say?

This week, we have three selections.

The first is a new Canadian Psychiatric Association position statement that considers cannabis and mental illness. Dr. Philip G. Tibbo (of Dalhousie University) and his co-authors systematically reviewed the literature. They found 29 RCTs, including for anxiety and psychotic disorders. “Use of cannabis or a cannabinoid product should never delay (or replace) more evidence-based forms of treatment.”

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But is there emerging evidence for cannabis? Tom P. Freeman (of the University College London) and his co-authors did a phase 2a trial using CBD to address cannabis use disorder, which is written up in The Lancet Psychiatry. “In the first randomised clinical trial of cannabidiol for cannabis use disorder, cannabidiol 400 mg and 800 mg were safe and more efficacious than placebo at reducing cannabis use.”

Finally, on a pivot, in the third selection, we consider an essay from The Globe and Mail. Rebeccah Love writes about her own experiences with psychosis and her recovery. She also considers whether police should be involved in mental health crises. “The image of a police officer – often a big white man with a gun – is interpreted as a threat, an agent of death, an oppressor.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Depression Outcomes: What Matters to Patients (Lancet Psych)? Also, NYT on Mental Health Apps and Startup Culture

From the Editor

“US Food and Drug Administration accepts only three outcome measures as primary endpoints in phase 3 studies to support an indication for major depressive disorder: the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale, or the Children’s Depression Rating Scale.”

The editors of The Lancet Psychiatry make this point in in the August issue of that journal. Their concern: the FDA view is very narrow and confined to these three scales.

In the first selection, we look at a new paper from The Lancet Psychiatry. Dr. Astrid Chevance (of the Center for Epidemiology and Statistics Paris Sorbonne) and her co-authors consider depression outcomes. To understand different perspectives, they draw on three groups: providers, patients, and caregivers. For the record, the resulting paper is fascinating and includes outcome measures that aren’t captured by these three scales. We consider the paper and the editorial that runs with it.

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In the second selection – also on the topic of depression – Kashmir Hill and Aaron Krolik report for The New York Times on a popular therapy app. They note that Talkspace has good marketing and a growing client base. But should you recommend the app to your patients?

DG

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Reading of the Week: COVID & Serious Mental Illness (JAMA Psych); also, Mental Health Care (Lancet Psych) and Hospital Care (Neurosci Bull)

From the Editor

In a heavy moment, a colleague of mine observed that spring is finally here, but none of us can enjoy it. This comment is one of many made over these past weeks about our new life. Our businesses are closed; our elderly are hiding; our colleagues are on the front lines and at risk. And, yes, the simple pleasure of enjoying a spring day – the warmth in the air, the song of the birds – has been lost, at least for now.

This week’s Reading has three selections, and each touches on the intersection between the pandemic and mental health care. Our new life means new challenges as we attempt to deliver mental health care services.

In the first selection, we consider a paper on COVID and serious mental illness. In a JAMA Psychiatry paper, Dr. Benjamin G. Druss (of Emory University) writes: “Disasters disproportionately affect poor and vulnerable populations, and patients with serious mental illness may be among the hardest hit.”

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What is the role of mental health care during this pandemic? In the second selection, we consider a new Lancet Psychiatry editorial. The editors write: “Although the mental health field’s interest in trauma has greatly expanded in recent decades, our scientific understanding of trauma has lagged far behind, including our understanding of its definition and aetiology, and, importantly, of how to effectively intervene.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a letter by Dr. Yuncheng Zhu (of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine) and his co-authors. They discuss inpatient care and the risk and prevention of infection. “Panic is inevitable among patients and medical staff and timely mental health care for dealing with the novel coronavirus outbreak is urgently needed.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: COVID-19 & Mental Health (Lancet Psych); Also, Depression & Online Mindfulness (JAMA Psych) and Help for Youth (Globe)

From the Editor

Earlier this week, a patient mentioned that, until recent events, he hadn’t heard of Wuhan, China. Today, it would seem, we are all familiar with this city.

Much reporting and commentary have focused on infections and deaths. But what are the psychiatric implications of the outbreak? This week, we have three selections. In the first, we look at a short and thoughtful paper from The Lancet Psychiatry that tries to answer this question. Dr. Yu-Tao Xiang (University of Macao) and his colleagues note: “In any biological disaster, themes of fear, uncertainty, and stigmatisation are common and may act as barriers to appropriate medical and mental health interventions.”

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In the second selection, we review a new study that uses an online mindfulness-based cognitive therapy aimed at patients with residual depressive symptoms, involving 460 participants. Zindel V. Segal (University of Toronto) and his co-authors find that the intervention “resulted in significant improvement in depression and functional outcomes compared with [usual depression care] only.”

And in the third selection, Drs. Pier Bryden and Peter Szatmari, both of the University of Toronto, discuss their new book. They open their Globe essay with a simple question: “What can I do to help my child?”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Is CBD Useful for Mood Disorders? The New CJP Paper. Also, Peer Support and Online CBT (Psych Services) & the Art of Daniel Regan

From the Editor

This week, we have three selections.

With the legalization of cannabis, many big claims haven been made about the medicinal aspects of this drug – including by industry. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is often touted as being helpful yet non-addictive (in contrast to THC, the more famous cannabis molecule). In the first selection, UBC’s Jairo Vinícius Pinto and his co-authors consider cannabidiol in the treatment of mood disorders, reviewing the existing literature. Does CBD help? “The methodology varied in several aspects and the level of evidence is not enough to support its indication as a treatment for mood disorders.”

In the second selection, the University of Michigan’s Paul N. Pfeiffer and his co-authors try to improve depression treatment outcomes by combining a cutting-edge psychotherapy (CBT, delivered by computer) with a not-so-cutting edge approach (peer support). They conclude that the intervention “should be considered as an initial treatment enhancement to improve effectiveness of primary care treatment of depression.”

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And in the third selection, we look at the work of artist Daniel Regan, which is featured on the front cover of February issue of The Lancet Psychiatry. He notes: “I really think if I hadn’t gone on to study photography, I wouldn’t be here.” Featured above is “Abandoned,” part of a series of photos from Victorian-era asylums in the UK.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis for Mental Illness: Popular and Promoted by Industry – But Evidenced? The New Lancet Psychiatry Paper

From the Editor

“It’s the only thing that helps with my anxiety.”

It’s closing in on midnight, and the ED patient I’m seeing is adamant that cannabis has helped him with his generalized anxiety disorder. My day has been long, but I choose to push a bit. Why cannabis? He notes how challenging it was to access mental health care. When he finally did see a psychiatrist, he feels he was offered a prescription after only a few minutes, and the trial of sertraline left him feeling more anxious. Cannabis, in contrast, helps him sleep and takes an edge off the anxiety.

More and more, our patients are talking up cannabis. Google “medical marijuana,” and there are over 166 million hits. And, yes, industry has noticed. There are a half a dozen cannabis dispensaries within a 10-minute walk from the CAMH ED, where I work. In the spring, a former prime minister joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana company, explaining that he was excited by the potential of cannabis to treat PTSD.

But is any of this evidence based?

This week, we look at a new paper from The Lancet Psychiatry. University of New South Wales’ Nicola Black and her co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis. Considering a variety of psychiatric disorders including depression, they draw on the literature to try to understand the effectiveness and safety of cannabinoids. “There is scarce evidence to suggest that cannabinoids improve depressive disorders and symptoms, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychosis.”

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We consider this big paper on the hot topic.

We also discuss the comment paper that accompanies this study. Yale University’s Deepak Cyril D’Souza writes: “The process of drug development in modern medicine is to first demonstrate efficacy and safety in clinical trials before using the drug clinically. With cannabinoids, it seems that the cart (use) is before the horse (evidence).” For the record, I don’t think Acreage Holdings will be distributing either paper to shareholders.

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Should Medical Education Stay in Its Lane? Goldfarb Argues Yes; Also, Problems in Youth (BJP) & Medical Memoirs (Lancet Psych)

From the Editor

What’s the best way of training future doctors?

Medical education has changed much over the years – schools across the country embraced the McMaster model, then cooled to it; efforts have been made to revisit core curriculum topics and add in more timely ones.

In the first selection, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Stanley Goldfarb – a former associate dean of curriculum at the Perelman School of Medicine – bemoans the state of medical education. Controversially, he argues in The Wall Street Journal: “Curricula will increasingly focus on climate change, social inequities, gun violence, bias and other progressive causes only tangentially related to treating illness.”

Is he right? We discuss the essay and responses to the essay.

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In the next selection, we look at a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. Drawing on a large dataset, the University College London’s Jessica Deighton and her co-authors study the rate of psychiatric problems among youths. “Findings reported here indicate the scale of mental health problems in children across many schools in England is much higher than previous estimates…”

And in the third selection, Dr. Linda Gask, a British psychiatrist, considers autobiographies written by physicians. “These stories can, in turn, inspire, impress, inform, engage, and even shock through the sharing of personal conflict and confessions…”

DG

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