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Mental Health in the News: March 6, 2023

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Mental Health in the News

Retired Naval Officer Stresses Mental Health Support Among Veterans

Veterans Day celebrations of our service members should not overshadow the daily mental health struggles they bear. Few understand the lasting impact left by the horrors of war and the importance of seeking help better than veterans themselves, as one decorated officer noted during last year’s Veterans Day event in Kitsap County, Washington. 

On November 11, 2022, over one thousand people gathered in Kitsap County to thank and commemorate the many generations of its resident veterans. Honorees included veterans of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan along with those who served in Korea, Vietnam, and even World War II.

Kevin ”Rusty” Staub, a retired Navy Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMDCM) with over 30 years of service, delivered a moving speech to the crowd about preventing morbid thought patterns, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts or actions that often plague veterans who lack support. 

Staub, like many others who served, lives with depression and PTSD. He reminded listeners that 22 veterans lose their lives to mental health-related causes every day.

Staub compared his experience to trying to dance to a bad song, attempting to go through the motions but being unable to change the music. He highlighted the importance of reaching out to others, describing how he leans on his wife, doctors, and especially fellow veterans, who understand as no one else can.

Finding the courage to talk about depression, PTSD, and other mental health struggles is the first step toward recovery. Talk therapy, medication, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are all effective treatment options. Healing can begin, Staub said, with something as simple as asking a fellow veteran how they are doing. 

To read the original article, click here

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Depression in the Military: Veterans Share Their Stories 

U.S. military service members, both active-duty and veterans, experience a higher rate of depression than the general population, likely due to the uniquely intense pressures of military life. A recent article draws insight on this problem from firsthand accounts of two veterans battling depression, PTSD and other mental health conditions. 

Statistics from a 2021 research meta-analysis:

  • About 23% of active-duty military personnel suffer from depression, with suicidal thoughts or attempts occuring in 11%.
  • 18% of active-duty personnel who use drugs and 9% who drink alcohol experience thoughts or attempts of suicide.
  • 20% of veterans are affected by depression, and 11% experience suicidal ideation.
  • 18% of veterans who use drugs consider suicide, while 30% attempt it. Among those who drink, the rate of ideations/attempts is 8%.  
  • Comparatively, just 8.4% of US adults experienced one or more major depressive episodes in 2020, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • Deployment has been found to increase depression among the service member’s immediate family, who must combat extra stressors and disruption of home life.

Veterans’ Stories

Danny Mayberry, a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Marine Corps veteran Michael Allen shared their similar experience of military-caused depression, especially with the stigma surrounding mental health issues in military culture that made it difficult to talk to their peers.

For Mayberry, it was only after undergoing treatment that he began to open up to friends and family. He credits transparency and getting help as crucial to turning his life around.

The Importance of Seeking Help

It’s important to look beyond the stigma surrounding mental health and take care of our needs. Only by asking for help can we find the recovery option that’s right for us. For example, medication, talk therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are all proven methods of treating depression. Military service members, who are exposed to more trauma due to the nature of their work but often dismissed when they ask for help, have the same rights to mental health as everyone else.

To read the original article, click here.

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Transgender Psych Patients Have Higher Rates of PTSD and BPD Than Cis Patients

Recent research shows that certain types of mood disorders are more prevalent among patients who identify as transgender/gender-diverse (TGD) than in their cis counterparts.

A new study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that while anxiety and depression are commonly diagnosed conditions regardless of gender identity, higher rates of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) specifically are found in TGD patients when compared to cisgender patients. 

Addressing Gaps in the Literature

The JCP study highlighted how the body of evidence in this area has historically depended on incomplete and unstructured psychodiagnostic assessments and self-reporting, without formal procedures to assess the diagnoses themselves. The researchers attempted to address this by comparing diagnostic profiles from cisgender and TGD patients using a framework of semi-structured interviews by professionals in a clinical setting.

Results of the Study

The study examined 2,212 patients at the Rhode Island Hospital Department of Psychiatry’s Partial Hospital Program over a seven-year period. However, because the participants are hospitalized during each day of the program — indicating a more severe level of illness — there is some question about whether the sample is representative of the wider population.

Mark Zimmerman, MD, one of the study’s co-authors, said that one motivation behind the research was the controversial notion in the field that TGD individuals all have BPD. There was no evidence of this in the study, as only a third of TGD patients were diagnosed with the condition. Instead, Zimmerman and his colleagues believe that the higher rates of BPD and PTSD are connected to unique stresses experienced by TGD people, such as social stigma (bullying, microaggressions, etc.) of their gender non-conformity, especially during childhood. 

The study concluded that psychiatric programs with TGD patients should be equipped to treat BPD and PTSD in addition to more common disorders. For patients who struggle to find relief from medication or talk therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a drug-free alternative proven to relieve symptoms in patients with depression, anxiety and BPD. 

To read the original 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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