Category: Mental Health

Pro-sanity Sundays: iTherapy?

photo of iPad2Online cognitive behavioral therapy for depression could become a “useful strategy to reduce suicidal ideation,” according to a pair of Australian researchers.

 

Their study, which appeared in the January 2015 Journal of Affective Disorders, followed the progress of 484 depressed patients who were prescribed internet cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT).  More than half (56.8 %) finished all six iCBT lessons.  At the study’s outset, half of the patients had suicidal ideation (the visualization of or actual plans for a suicide attempt, which is considered a danger signal for suicide); at the completion of the study, only 27% had it.  The prevalence of major depression went from 71% at the outset to 28% at completion.

 

The authors, Louise Mewton and Gavin Andrews, note that iCBT is “a strategy which can be implemented on a large scale without enacting major structural change at the societal level.” The patient data were de-identified, but more than half of the referring clinicians were based in rural areas of Australia (55.6%) and almost half were general practitioners (45.2%).  This implies that iCBT therapy could be practical and effective in situations where there is a dearth of mental health specialists, or where patient transportation is an issue.

 

The study was “practice-based”; that is, data from an established practice were analyzed.  The gold standard in the medical field is a randomized double-blind clinical trial, and the authors advocate for iCBT to be so tested.  But the Mewton and Andrews report is an indication that rural and underserved mental health patients may soon have another way to access badly-needed treatment.

Art and Nature: “Awe”-some for health!

When it hits you – your eyes widen and a tingle runs down your spine – you’ve encountered something that fills you with wonder and awe. It might be from gazing at the Milky Way on a camping trip, admiring the passionate brush strokes of Van Gogh, or attending a church service to worship a higher power. However it happens, experiencing the emotion of awe may not just be awesome; it may also be good for your health.

A recent paper published in the journal Emotion found that positive emotions – and especially awe – were associated with lower levels of IL-6, a marker for inflammation. Proinflammatory cytokines like IL-6 are normally important when the body is exposed to infection or injury, as they help the body to heal. However, chronic levels of inflammation are implicated in the progression of diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

While stress can increase the body’s level of inflammation, this study suggests that positive emotions like awe can act as a counterbalance. This study supports previous research that has shown that other positive psychological processes – such as finding value in one’s life and making meaningful social connections – are associated with gene expression profiles indicative of lower levels of inflammation. Because positive emotions may prompt us to explore and connect with others, they may help us identify resources that help protect us against adversity. So get going and see the world, for both your mind and your body.

Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

Conference to examine economic, health links

brochuretn-232x300Expanding Medicaid was at or near the top of the list of actions that Moral Monday participants urged on leaders of the North Carolina Legislature on Wednesday (Jan. 28) this past week. The protesters say Medicaid expansion would make health care more available to more poor people, in a state with more than 300,000 households living below the poverty level.

The 36th Annual Minority Health Conference, taking place on Friday, Feb. 27 at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education, will focus on the ways strategies like Medicaid expansion could contribute to North Carolina’s overall economic health.  “Reaching for the American Dream: Economic Mobility and Minority Health” is the conference theme. William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., Ph.D., the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Duke University, will give the William T. Small Jr. Keynote Lecture at 9:30 a.m.  That lecture will subsequently be webcast to partner conferences and remote sites at 2 p.m. ET, followed by a live Q&A with Dr. Darity.

Conference breakout sessions will cover topics such as e-Health and Health Literacy, Refugee Health, and Income Disparities and Mental Health.

The registration deadline is Friday, Feb. 13.  Click here for more information or to register.