Health and Fitness

NAMI Applauds New Report On Caregiving

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) praises a new report, Caregiving in the U.S. 2009, which offers a revealing portrait of the nearly one-in-three American adults who serve as a family caregiver. The study is based on interviews with 1, 480 caregivers chosen at random and offers a national profile of people caring for adults, the elderly and children with special needs. It follows similar studies conducted in 2004 and 1997, but for the first time, caregivers for children, as well as those caring for adults over the age of 18, were surveyed. The report echoes the findings of NAMI's own depression survey and schizophrenia survey, which include the perspective of caregivers for people living with these serious mental illnesses. All these reports suggest that caregivers face daily stresses that can impact their own health and other relationships. For example, NAMI's depression survey, released in November, found that while almost one-half (48 percent) of caregivers for people with depression have been diagnosed with depression themselves, only about 25 percent were engaged in treatment at the time of the survey.

Few Americans With Major Depression Receive Adequate Treatment

Many U.S. adults with major depression do not receive treatment for depression or therapy based on treatment guidelines, and some racial and ethnic groups have even lower rates of adequate depression care, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Depression is a leading cause of disability among many racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to background information in the article. Pharmacotherapy (including antidepressants) and psychotherapy are both effective, well tolerated treatments for depression when provided according to established guidelines (such as those from the American Psychiatric Association), the authors note. Previous research suggests that many individuals are untreated or undertreated, but most studies of depression care have not distinguished between the two modalities and have also aggregated major racial and ethnic groups (for instance, combining all Latino individuals instead of examining specific subgroups, such as Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans).

Severely Depressive Patient Successfully Treated Using Deep Brain Stimulation

A team of neurosurgeons at Heidelberg University Hospital and psychiatrists at the Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim have for the first time successfully treated a patient suffering from severe depression by stimulating the habenula, a tiny nerve structure in the brain. The 64-year-old woman, who had suffered from depression since age 18, could not be helped by medication or electroconvulsive therapy. Since the procedure she is, for the first time in years, free of symptoms. Scientific studies have shown that the habenula is hyperactive in depression, the idea was to downregulate this structure by deep brain stimulation. The surgical procedure is based on a hypothesis of how the habenula is involved in depression that was first formulated by Dr. Alexander Sartorius, psychiatrist at the Central Institute for Mental Health (CIMH; Director: Professor Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg; former Director CIMH Professor Fritz Henn, Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York). The stereotactic procedure at the Neurosurgery Department of Heidelberg University Hospital (Medical Director: Professor Andreas Unterberg) was performed by Dr.

Migraine And Depression May Share Genetic Component

New research shows that migraine and depression may share a strong genetic component. The research is published in the January 13, 2010, online issue of Neurology® , the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. "Understanding the genetic factors that contribute to these disabling disorders could one day lead to better strategies to manage the course of these diseases when they occur together, " said Andrew Ahn, MD, PhD, of the University of Florida in Gainesville, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study and is a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "In the meantime, people with migraine or depression should tell their doctors about any family history of either disease to help us better understand the link between the two." The study involved 2, 652 people who took part in the larger Erasmus Rucphen Family study. All of the participants are descendants of 22 couples who lived in Rucphen in the 1850s to 1900s. "Genealogical information has shown them all to be part of a large extended family, which makes this type of genetic study possible, " said study author Gisela M.

Mental Health America Calls On President To Reverse Policy Of Not Sending Condolence Letters To Families Of Soldiers Who Complete Suicide

Mental Health America is calling on President Obama to reverse a long-standing, unwritten policy of not sending Presidential letters of condolence to the families of service members who have completed suicide. A resolution adopted by Mental Health America's Board of Directors states that a condolence letter can help eliminate the stigma and shame associated with suicide and provide emotional support to families. "The lack of acknowledgment and condolence from the President can leave these families with an emotional vacuum and a feeling that somehow their sacrifices may not have been as great as others who died while in the military, " the resolution states. Mental Health America is also circulating an online petition through its Facebook page. "Our nation face a critical challenge as we welcome our troops back from war, " the petition state. "After bravely risking their lives for our country, these heroes and their families often return to strained relationships, depression and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Teens And Parents Need Help Identifying Suicidal Adolescents

Adolescents and parents need help recognizing that suicide is a problem in their own communities, as well as help identifying teens who are suicidal, according to the study, "Attitudes and Beliefs of Adolescents and Parents Regarding Adolescent Suicide, " published in the February issue of Pediatrics (appearing online Jan. 11). In the United States in 2006, 1, 771 children and adolescents ages 10 to 19 committed suicide, making suicide the third leading cause of death in this age group. To design a better suicide prevention program, researchers set out to understand what interventions would be most effective. In focus groups in Chicago and Kansas City, both teenagers and their parents correctly identified many of the known risk factors for suicide, including mental illness, alcohol and substance abuse, relational or social loss, and hopelessness. However, study authors said it was concerning that some of the parents reported regular drug and alcohol use as being a normal part of adolescent development, rather than problem behavior.

Surplus Of Serotonin Receptors May Explain Failure Of Antidepressants In Some Patients

An excess of one type of serotonin receptor in the center of the brain may explain why antidepressants fail to relieve symptoms of depression for 50 percent of patients, a new study from researchers at Columbia University Medical Center shows. The study is the first to find a causal link between receptor number and antidepressant treatment and may lead to more personalized treatment for depression, including treatments for patients who do not respond to antidepressants and ways to identify these patients before they undergo costly, and ultimately, futile therapies. The research, led by Rene Hen, PhD, professor of pharmacology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Columbia University, and a researcher the New York State Psychiatric Institute, appears in the January 15 issue of the journal Neuron. Most antidepressants - including the popular SSRIs - work by increasing the amount of serotonin made by cells -- called raphe neurons -- deep in the middle of the brain.

Analysis Suggests That Benefit Of Antidepressant Medications Varies With Severity Of Depression Symptoms

An analysis of randomized trials indicates that compared with placebo, the magnitude of benefit of antidepressant medications varies with the severity of depressive symptoms, and may provide little benefit for patients with mild or moderate depression, but appear to provide substantial benefit for patients with very severe depression, according to an article in the January 6 issue of JAMA. Antidepressant medications (ADM) are the current standard of treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD), but there is little evidence that they have a specific pharmacological effect relative to placebo for patients with less severe depression, according to background information in the article. Jay C. Fournier, M.A., of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to estimate the benefit of ADM vs. placebo across a wide range of initial symptom severity in patients diagnosed with depression. The researchers combined data from 6 large-scale, placebo-controlled randomized trials.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Does Not Respond To St. John's Wort

A Mayo Clinic research study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology finds that St. John's wort is not an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While antidepressants are frequently used to treat IBS, to date, no study has examined the success of using the herbal supplement St. John's wort in treating IBS. "Our study investigated if herbal antidepressants such as St. John's wort could benefit irritable bowel disease patients, " says Yuri Saito, M.D., M.P.H., gastroenterologist and lead physician scientist on the study. "Several of the chemical neurotransmitters that are in the brain are also in the colon. Therefore, it's been thought that antidepressants may affect sensation in the colon in a similar way to how they affect sensation in the brain. Our goal was to evaluate the usefulness of St John's wort in treating IBS." In this placebo-controlled trial, 70 participants with IBS were randomized where half the patients received St.

Half Of Depressed Americans Go Untreated

A national survey of 15, 762 households by UCLA/Wayne State University researchers found that only 21 percent of Americans suffering from clinical depression receive medical care consistent with American Psychiatric Association guidelines. Half receive no treatment at all. The majority of treated patients, nearly 45 percent, received psychotherapy with no medication. Only 34 percent of patients were prescribed antidepressants. Of that number, Mexican Americans and African Americans were prescribed antidepressants a third less often than Caucasians. Factors such as education, health insurance and income did not explain the lower rates of medication use. African Americans and Mexican Americans faced the greatest barriers to mental healthcare and received adequate treatment only half as often as Caucasians. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Impact The findings unmasked disparities in healthcare access often overlooked when Latinos are inappropriately lumped together.

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