Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old whose alleged shooting rampage claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month, was sick. His family knew it. His neighbors knew it. Local law enforcement and mental-health professionals knew it.
Yet, like so many tragedies involving the seriously mentally ill, no one was able to prevent the rampage. Why?
As the family member of someone with serious mental illness, and as someone who has spent 30 years helping other families with seriously ill members, the answer is clear: The system often prevents relatives from getting help for loved ones who have serious mental illness until after they have become a danger to themselves or others. Too often this means after someone — often a family member — is injured or killed.
A study published in the February 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports that five novel genetic variants associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been identified by exploiting genetic overlap between ADHD and educational attainment.
“In this study, we aimed to explore the genetic architectures of ADHD and educational attainment and to what degree they have a shared genetic basis,” says Alexey A. Shadrin, lead author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT). “Our findings may increase the understanding of the genetic risk underlying ADHD and its connection to educational attainment, which has important socioeconomic and health-related life implications,” Dr. Shadrin explains.
Opioid cessation in non-cancer pain may be more successful when depression is treated to remission, a Saint Louis University study shows.
The study, “Impact of adherence to antidepressants and on long-term prescription opioid use” was published in the February issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., professor of family and community medicine at Saint Louis University and his co-authors have found depression is a consequence of chronic opioid use. In the current study, they find that patients with chronic prescription opioid use and depression who adhered to anti-depressant medications were more likely to stop opioids.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) are co-hosting a Twitter chat to discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The chat will take place Tuesday, February 20, 2018, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET.
SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. This chat will cover SAD signs and symptoms, risk factors, and treatments and therapies. Two experts will be available to answer questions:
Matthew Rudorfer, M.D., Somatic Treatments and Psychopharmacology Program Chief, NIMH Division of Services and Intervention Research
Prenatal stress might not be so bad for babies after all, depending on how they are raised.
New research with prairie voles by child development experts at the University of California, Davis, suggests that prenatal stress promotes developmental plasticity in babies, making them especially likely to benefit from good parenting as well as suffer from negligent care.
“It looks like prenatal stress can be good for us if we are lucky enough to have a supportive environment postnatally,” said Sarah Hartman, a recent Ph.D. graduate in human ecology at UC Davis who conducted the research under the supervision of human development professor Jay Belsky and Karen Bales, professor of psychology.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has launched a redesigned Statistics section on its website that features interactive data visualization tools and sharing capabilities. The section also features improved organization, navigation, and accessibility. The goal: To help people understand the impact of mental illnesses.
“There is power in numbers,” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. “Mental illnesses affect tens of millions of people in the United States and across the globe each year. Each of these individuals has a singular, compelling story that conveys an understanding of the depth of suffering. Statistics build on this foundation by helping us better understand the broader scope and impact of mental illnesses on society.”
Antipsychotic drugs — which transformed mental health care following their chance discovery in the mid-20th Century — may finally be poised for a long-overdue makeover incorporating structure-based design. Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a landmark of psychiatric neuropharmacology: deciphering the molecular structure of a widely prescribed antipsychotic docked in its key receptor. They are hopeful that this discovery may hold secrets to designing better treatments for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses.
“For the first time, we can understand precisely how atypical antipsychotic drugs bind to their primary molecular target in the human brain,” explained Dr. Laurie Nadler, chief of the neuropharmacology program at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which co-funded the study along with the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Cancer Institute. “This discovery opens the way for the rational design of a new generation of antipsychotic drugs, hopefully with more desirable effects and fewer side effects.”
A new study at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) challenges the popular notion that psychiatric medications are overprescribed in children and adolescents in the U.S. When the researchers compared prescribing rates with prevalence rates for the most common psychiatric disorders in children, they discovered that some of these medications may be underprescribed.
“Over the last several years, there has been widespread public and professional concern over reports that psychiatric medications are being overprescribed to children and adolescents in the United States,” Ryan Sultan, MD, a child psychiatrist and researcher at CUIMC who led the study. “We were interested in better understanding this concern.”
Two independent teams of scientists from the University of Utah and the University of Massachusetts Medical School have discovered that a gene crucial for learning, called Arc, can send its genetic material from one neuron to another by employing a strategy commonly used by viruses. The studies, both published in Cell, unveil a new way that nervous system cells interact.
“This work is a great example of the importance of basic neuroscience research,” said Edmund Talley, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health. “What began as an effort to examine the behavior of a gene involved in memory and implicated in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease has unexpectedly led to the discovery of an entirely new process, which neurons may use to send genetic information to one another.”
The common practice of using patient self-report screening questionnaires rather than diagnostic interviews conducted by researchers has resulted in overestimates of the prevalence of depression, according to an analysis in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
“These studies misrepresent the actual rate of depression, sometimes dramatically, which makes it very difficult to direct the right resources to problems faced by patients,” said Dr. Brett Thombs of the Lady Davis Institute of the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, the study’s lead author. “Self-report questionnaires are meant to be used as an initial assessment to cast a wide net and identify people who may be struggling with mental health issues. However, we need to conduct a more thorough evaluation in order to determine an appropriate diagnosis and whether there may be other issues to address.”