1. Social media for support and feedback by mental health service users: a little bird told me….
Social media sites are being increasingly used as forums for users to discuss their physical health, but is this also true of their mental health? Unsurprisingly, a study published in February, which analyzed the use of social media by mental health service users, was a big hit on both our website and on social media.
Andrew Shepherd and colleagues carried out a thematic analysis of a conversation on the social media website Twitter, in order to identify common themes of discussion. Tweets that were part of the #dearmentalhealthprofessionals conversation were identified. Following removal of duplicate material (re-tweets), the researchers analyzed a total of 515 individual tweets. The majority of the tweets were found to relate to four common themes: impact of diagnosis; balance of power between professional and service user; developing therapeutic relationship and communication; and support provision. This study demonstrates that individuals with experience of mental disorders use social media as a forum for discussion and support, as well as a medium for providing feedback to mental health professionals. However, as the authors point out, further research is required to establish whether such social media networks are suitable as a means of service provision feedback.
2. Social influences on seeking help from mental health services during adolescence and young adulthood
Our social interactions inevitably influence our behavior, something which is particularly apparent during adolescence and early adulthood. But do social influences and ‘peer-pressure’ effect the health care choices we make when it comes to seeking mental health care? A study published in March by Debra Rickwood and colleagues, examined the developmental changes in social influences on seeking mental health care (in Australia), during adolescence and young adulthood, both of which are critical life stages for mental health.
More than 35,000 12-25 year olds who sought help from a national self-referral youth mental health care provider, or via the same organization’s online service, were asked who their main help-seeking influence was. The researchers found that the vast majority of both males and females who sought help online did so under their own influence; this was the case in all age groups. In contrast, for those seeking help at a center in person self-influence increased with age. For those attending a center, the influence of family was highest during young adolescence and decreased with age. Interestingly, the influence of friends was surprising low in all age groups (when seeking help either online or at a center). The authors conclude that their results indicate a major developmental shift in help-seeking influences across adolescence and young adulthood. However, further research is necessary to determine whether these results can be generalized beyond Australia’s health care system.
3. Imaging of metabolic alterations in major depressive disorder following anti-depressant treatment
Non-invasive brain imaging techniques are increasingly used as tools for studying psychiatric disorders. But can functional imaging be used to predict whether someone with a depressive disorder will respond to pharmacological treatment?
In a study by Yifan Zhang and colleagues published in May, Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to examine metabolite concentrations in the ventral prefrontal white matter, an area thought to play an important role in mood regulation. Seventeen women diagnosed with Major depressive disorder were imaged prior to, and then 12 weeks after commencing, treatment with a commonly prescribed anti-depressant (an SSRI). Pre-treatment analysis demonstrated that those with Major depressive disorder had a significantly lower ration of certain metabolites in the ventral prefrontal white matter, compared to healthy controls. Following 12 weeks of SSRI treatment, increased metabolite ratios, compared to their pre-treatment values, were accompanied by reduced depressive symptoms as measured by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. Thus, despite the small sample size, this study suggests that imaging of metabolic alterations may be of use for determining treatment response to SSRIs.
4. Bouldering as a treatment for depression: caught between a rock and a hard place?
Depression is a common mental disorder which can severely impact an individual’s quality of life. Physical activity has an important influence on mood and has therefore been proposed as an adjunct to traditional treatments for depression.
In August, Katharina Luttenberger and colleagues published the results of a pilot study which examined the use of indoor rock climbing (bouldering) as a treatment for depression. The study used a randomized waitlist control design whereby participants received either treatment as usual or an interventional program which integrated psychotherapeutic interventions in a bouldering group setting, followed by a period during which the groups were switched. Study participants completed a series of self-reported instruments to rate their depression including the Beck Depression Inventory II. After eight weeks of intervention, results indicated positive effects on the measures of depression in the bouldering group. During their intervention period the former waitlist group also showed improved symptoms of depression. As the authors are keen to point out, the small sample size of their study means that further research is required but the possibilities for bouldering as a treatment for depression look promising.
5. Occupational class differences in suicide: changes during the global financial crisis
It seems that the state of the world-wide economy is intrinsically linked to suicide rates in developed nations. On a population level, a number of studies have reported spikes in suicide rates during the recent global financial crisis.
A study published in September reported the results of a time-trend analysis (2001-2010) of suicide rates in Australia by occupational class and gender. The researchers, led by Alison Milner, calculated male and female suicide rates per 100,000 by broad occupational categories, which were grouped according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations. They then employed regression models to investigate Rate Ratios in suicide by occupational group. Over the whole time period studied certain occupational groups were found to have higher suicide rates than others; within both genders the highest rates of suicide occurred in laborers. The global financial crisis (2007-2009) coincided with a widening of disparities in suicide rates by occupational class. Thus, the authors conclude that suicide prevention programs should be targeted towards at risk occupational groups during times of economic downturn.
And a few more:
BMC Psychiatry is grateful for another successful year and is looking forward to bringing you more exciting research in 2016. Stay tuned!