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Mental Health in the News: January 19, 2023

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Mental Health in the News

Anxiety and Depression Increase For Some Americans During the Holiday Season

The holidays conjure up images of families around the table eating dinner or exchanging presents by the fire on Christmas morning. But for millions of Americans, the reality is far less picturesque. 75% of participants in an online poll administered by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America stated that they felt more anxious and depressed during the holidays. 

According to Dr. John Oldham, senior vice president and chief of staff at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, the holidays for many are filled with loss, grief, family drama, and stress around money, entertaining, and social gatherings. These stressors can increase anxiety and depression and sometimes even lead to mental breakdowns. Dr. Oldham says there is a spike in inquiries about mental health assistance after the holiday season. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that child and adolescent psychiatric hospitalizations are highest during the winter, and that 64% of people with mental disorders say that the holidays worsen their symptoms and conditions. However, contrary to popular belief, wintertime rates of suicide — the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. — are the lowest of the year. 

The holidays can also be tough for those without a diagnosed mental condition. People often experience feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and frustration from the added stress and pressures of the season. The difference between the “Holiday Blues” and clinically diagnosed anxiety or depression is one of duration. The holiday blues are temporary and will typically fade as the new year begins, while chronic sufferers deal with symptoms all year long. 

Dr. Oldham hopes that people will reach out for support if they are experiencing a difficult time during the holidays, rather than turn to alcohol or other unhealthy coping mechanisms that will only make it worse. The best way to feel better, he says, is to get professional help

To read the original news article, click here.

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Veterans Are Seeking Alternative Treatments to Mental Health Disorders

Today, more and more United States military veterans are seeking alternative treatments for mental health disorders instead of taking traditional prescription pharmaceuticals. These alternative treatments are known as complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), and include options such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, cannabis, and physical exercise. 

Recently, Balanced Veterans Network partnered with Cannabis Creative Movement to create a free downloadable “Wellness Resource” guide for veterans. It details some of the most prevalent challenges faced by veterans and their loved ones, along with currently available alternative treatments. 

“Prioritizing mental health is vital to living a balanced life,” said Ron Millward, founder and president of Balanced Veterans Network. “Current medical research has proven that non-traditional therapies can help treat mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.”

Challenges of Transitioning Back to Civilian Life

When veterans return from their time in the service, they encounter hardships such as: 

  • Overcoming stereotypes of being broken or dangerous
  • 2.4 times greater chance of committing suicide than previously reported
  • Chronic pain
  • Opioid abuse
  • Mental health disorders like PTSD, depression, or anxiety

“Although not all veterans struggle with mental health issues, they all must manage issues that those of us in civilian life never experience,” said John Shute, Founder and CEO of the Cannabis Creative Movement. 

Why CAM Treatments?

Physicians and mental health practitioners are increasingly recognizing the benefits of CAM treatments. One 2005 study reported that 65% of mental health patients have tried at least one CAM treatment alongside their traditional therapies. Many patients turn to alternative medicines because they are frustrated with the side effects of prescription drugs or want to explore a more holistic approach. 

“We are here to break the stigma around mental health by educating and empowering veterans to try different modalities that challenge and strengthen the mind,” said Millward.

To read the original news article, click here.

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A New Method of Administering TMS Brings Some Hope for Patients With Depression

Since its FDA approval in 2008, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has offered hope for patients with treatment-resistant depression  – depression that does not respond to traditional medications or psychotherapy. About 30% of people who undergo TMS experience a full remission from their depression symptoms for about a year. If the depression returns, another TMS course or other form of treatment is needed. 

One drawback of TMS treatments is that they require a substantial time commitment: 36 sessions over six to nine weeks. To address this issue, researchers from Stanford have developed a new way of administering TMS called Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy (SAINT or SNT), which requires 50 treatment sessions administered over just five days.  

What is TMS?

TMS therapy targets specific areas of the brain known for regulating mood. Patients wear a head device that sends electromagnetic pulses through the skull and into the brain to stimulate nerve cells. It is a safe procedure with few side effects, such as headaches, scalp discomfort and facial tingling, that are typically well tolerated. A rare side effect is seizure. 

Standard TMS vs. SAINT: What is the difference?

While both treatments are FDA-approved and utilize neurostimulation technology, standard TMS and SAINT have some differences that patients should consider. 

SAINT Protocol:

  • New: Only one promising study has been conducted so far
  • Higher promised results: 78% of patients experienced full remission from depression
  • Utilizes brain scans: Uses MRI to determine the best areas of the brain to target
  • Higher pulses per session: Triples the number of pulses
  • More sessions in a shorter time: 10 sessions per day for five days
  • Out-of-pocket cost: Not covered by insurance as of yet
  • Many unknown factors: Will results last and replicate across a wider and more diverse group of patients? Are there different side effects? Will all SAINT practitioners follow the protocol with fidelity?

Standard TMS

  • Time-tested: Overall results from many different studies are around 30% remission
  • Fewer sessions over longer time: 36 sessions for six to nine weeks
  • Known side effects: TMS side effects are well documented and well tolerated
  • Accessible: Covered by many insurance providers

To read the original news article, click here.

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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