New Study Raises Doubts About fMRI Neuroimaging Research

More than forty thousand papers have been published using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to explore the brain. A new analysis of the common methods used in these studies is calling the entire field into question, however. The new study, published open-access in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the methods used in fMRI research can create the illusion of brain activity where there is none—up to 70% of the time.

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Clinton Releases Mental Health Plan

Today, Hillary Clinton’s campaign released their plan for addressing mental health care in the United States. The plan calls for a full integration of physical and mental health care systems, implementing early intervention programs, training law enforcement to respond to people in crisis, making treatment accessible to low-level offenders, and increasing funding for community health centers. The presidential candidate also plans, if elected, to hold a conference on mental health at the White House in the first year.

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Lancet Study on CBT and Behavioral Activation Challenged

In July, The Lancet published a study finding that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) from trained psychotherapists was not superior to short-term behavior activation (BA) intervention delivered by minimally trained workers for depression. The study has come under criticism, however, with the Mind the Brain PloS blog questioning the motives behind the suggestion that clinical psychologists can be replaced by less expensive mental health workers.

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Fighting For Change: An Epiphany From Inside the “Movement”

I am a person labeled with “severe and persistent mental illness,” and so I have been trying to break the cycle of oppression that comes with a label like that. At the same time, I am trying to find ways to heal and to accept things about myself that are different from others, while also seeking to raise up my brothers and sisters in this desolate and dark place. This morning, I had an epiphany upon awakening. While it’s hard to put into words, it feel’s vital, and I want to try and get it down.
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Study Finds ADHD Drugs Alter Developing Brain

A new study, published in the JAMA Psychiatry, investigates the effect of stimulant ‘ADHD’ drugs on the brains of children and young adults. The results of the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the ‘gold standard’ for evidence in academic medicine, indicate that methylphenidate (Ritalin) has a distinct effect on children that may lead to lasting neurological changes.

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Sociologist Explores the DSM-5’s Failed Attempt at Validity

In a new article for the journal Social Science & Medicine, sociologist Owen Whooley investigates how the DSM-5 creators failed in their attempt to create a valid diagnostic system.

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Neuroscientists Consider the Effect of the Gut on the Brain

A review article published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology summarizes the latest research on the role that microbiota in the gut play in brain function and behavior. While the research on this topic is new, and many open questions remain, experts are hopeful that bacteria-based interventions may be developed in the future that have a positive impact on mental health.

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Inner Fire: Healing and Recovery Without Meds

For five years, I and others worked to create a residential healing community in Brookline, Vermont, where people could recover from debilitating and traumatic life experiences, which often lead to addiction and mental health challenges, without the use of psychotropic medications. We welcomed our first six seekers to a yearlong, therapeutic and farm-based, day program last September, and we now can report on what we have learned during this time.
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Systemic Racism Erodes Mental Health, Study Finds

New research out of the United Kingdom examines the cumulative impact of systemic racism on the mental health of minorities over time.  The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, finds that people who experience repeated incidents of racial discrimination are significantly more likely to report mental health problems than those who experience fewer instances of discrimination.

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“What if Addiction Is Not a Disease?”

For The Chronicle of Higher Education, David Schimke reports on how debate erupted at a substance abuse conference over whether or not addiction should be considered a disease. "Is there a biomarker that tells you that you have a disease? No. Is there a definitive set of circumstances? No," says Hugh Garavan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont. "There’s no biological test for it. We don’t have a single medical test."

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Pilot Study Adapts Open Dialogue for US Health Care

In an article for Psychiatric Services, psychiatrist Christopher Gordon and his colleagues report on the results of a one-year feasibility study attempting to implement Open Dialogue approaches to crisis intervention to the treatment of first-episode psychosis in the US. Their trial program was successful, with positive clinical outcomes, improved functioning, and significant changes in symptoms, leading the researchers to suggest that states consider adopting to Open Dialogue model.

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“Study Finds Mental Health Patients No Better Off Behind Locked Doors”

The Lancet Psychiatry published a study last week finding no benefit to locking up patients in mental health hospitals. Data on 145,000 patients found no difference in rates of suicide and patients leaving against advice when comparing those with similar symptoms severity in locked and unlocked wards. “Psychiatry professor Tom Burns, whose commentary on the study was also published in The Lancet, told Nine To Noon an open-door policy could be preferable for those with depression, anxiety or psychosis, as it promoted a better therapeutic atmosphere and more positive health outcomes.”

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You Can Have Any Kind of Treatment You Want, Providing it’s Our Kind

Mental health nurse education supports institutional psychiatric practice in an insufficiently questioning way. Its formal curricula in universities are often undermined by the informal curricula of practice environments. As an institution, mental health nursing pays insufficient attention to both these issues because it is an arguably un-reflexive and rule-following discipline.
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“Is Addiction Really a Disease?”

Neuroscientist and psychologist Marc Lewis, author of “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not A Disease,” suggests in the Guardian that treating addiction as if it is a learned pattern of thinking, rather than a medical illness, gives addicts the chance to stay clean. “As a neuroscientist, I recognise that the brain changes with addiction, but I see those changes as an expression of ongoing plasticity in an organ designed to change with strong emotions and repeated experiences. Similar changes have been recorded when people fall in love, become obese, gamble compulsively, or overindulge on the internet,” Lewis writes. “And as a developmental psychologist (my other hat), I see addiction as an attitude or self-concept that grows and crystallises with experience, often initiated by difficulties in childhood or adolescence.”

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Study Finds Improved Functioning for ‘Schizophrenia’ Without Antipsychotics

Long-term treatment with antipsychotic drugs is currently considered the standard treatment for patients diagnosed with ‘schizophrenia.’ A new study challenges this practice, however. The results, published this month in Psychological Medicine, reveal that patients who were not taking antipsychotic drugs had significantly higher levels of functioning than medicated patients.

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Most People with Common ‘Mental Disorders’ Get Better Without Treatment, Study Finds

A new study suggests that most people diagnosed with depressive, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders recover without treatment within a year of diagnosis. “This study further supports the argument that meeting diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder does not necessarily indicate a need for mental health treatment,” the researchers, led by Jitender Sareen from the University of Manitoba, write.

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Despite Official Recommendations, Depression Screening in Children is Not Supported by Research

Earlier this year, the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) came out with the controversial recommendation that all adolescent and adult patients undergo depression screening in primary care. A new study, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, calls this recommendation into question. Researchers led by Brett Thombs from McGill University reviewed the accuracy of the existing screening instruments used for the detection of depression in children and adolescents and found insufficient evidence for their use.

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Neuroplasticity and How the Brain Heals

For The Lancet, Jules Morgan reviews a new book, “The Brain’s Way of Healing,” by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge. Doidge challenges current understandings of how the brain works and presents neuroplasticity as a means by which cognitive and motor functions can be regained once damaged.  “If neuroplasticity is now accepted in neuroscience,” he writes, “why are these clinical approaches that make use of it not more widely available and mainstream?”

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Psychologists and Psychiatrists Approach Mental Health Differently

Psychiatrists and psychologists have traditionally taken distinct approaches toward mental health and, according to a new study, these differences may be here to stay. Researchers in the UK surveyed psychiatrists and psychologists in training about their perspectives on the causes of mental health issues and found that, despite attempts to integrate the field, the two disciplines “continue to sit at opposite ends of a biological/psychological spectrum.”

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Antidepressants Often Prescribed to Enforce Heteronormativity, Study Concludes

A new study investigating fifteen years of patient records at a Midwestern hospital found that psychiatrists almost always responded to patient complaints about their relationships by prescribing antidepressants, despite the fact that these complaints had little to do with the DSM criteria for depression. The study’s lead author, Jonathan Metzl, a professor of Sociology and Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt, suggests that after the decision in 1974 to remove homosexuality from the DSM, psychiatry continued to enforce forms of socially accepted relationships through the prescription of antidepressants.

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“Antidepressants Are A Quick Fix In A Broken System”

For The Times, Labour MP Luciana Berger writes about her concerns with the increased use of antidepressants. “Antidepressants should never be prescribed as a first response to mild depression,” she writes. “Psychological therapies are what the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends. Unlike fluoxetine, citalopram and the rest, talking therapies are non-addictive and can be matched to a patient’s needs.”

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Experts Debate Expansion of Assisted Dying Legislation to Psychiatric Patients

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that adults with a “grievous and irremediable” condition have a right to medically assisted suicide. In an effort to legislate this right, a parliamentary committee was formed that suggested extending this definition to nonterminal medical conditions, including psychiatric disorders. In response, the Canadian Medical Association Journal printed an editorial by bioethics and public health experts Scott Kim and Tudo Lemmens. Kim and Lemmens argue that extending assisted dying laws to include patients diagnosed with psychiatric disorders “will put many vulnerable and stigmatized people at risk.”

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Yogurt Cooperative in Spain Provides a Different Form of Help: Meaningful Work

Every one of the Fageda Cooperative’s 300 workers – from milking shed to packing plant – will tell you that this cooperative makes the finest yogurt in all Spain, if not in the world. Last year, they made 1.4 million yogurts every week. In Catalonia, only Nestle and Danone sell more. But Fageda isn’t in business to make yogurt. For over 30 years, its sole mission has been to provide fully-paid, flexible employment to anyone from the region diagnosed with a mental health problem but who still wants to work.
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“The One Question Therapists Don’t Often Ask–but Should”

In the Washington Post psychiatrist, Samantha Boardman argues that counselors should focus on a patient’s strengths instead of what they perceive as being wrong. “The researchers found that deliberately capitalizing on an individual’s strengths outperforms a treatment that compensates for an individual’s weaknesses,” she writes. “This challenges the assumption held by many health professionals that we need to fix the problem before focusing on anything else.”

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“Psychiatry in Crisis?” BMJ Covers Dutch Conference on Prescribing

Richard Smith, the former editor of The BMJ, reports back from a meeting in the Netherlands last week featuring former DSM-IV chair, Allen Frances, and Peter Gøtzsche, a Danish physician, researcher, and leader of the Nordic Cochrane Center. “Dutch psychiatrists, it was explained to me, are feeling vulnerable because there are too many of them. They have two treatments to offer–drugs and psychotherapy. But the Netherlands has many clinical psychologists, and they have taken over the psychotherapy,” Smith writes. “Psychiatrists are left with drugs and anxiety about their future.”

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