Category Archive for ‘Mood Disorders’

Research Focus: Bipolar Disorder in a Dish

A research study has used a new cellular model to see “inside” the brains of people with bipolar disorder. We can’t always see what we want to see inside the bodies of living people, despite all the technology we have for looking—from X-ray to MRI to endoscopy.  In particular, our methods for looking at living people’s brains are pretty limited. One of the common ways around this, especially when we want to learn about a disorder affecting humans is to study a model of the illness. Animal models are the most common—say, a mouse or rat that has been subjected to stress or trauma and shows signs of anxiety or depression. Such models are somewhat limited since we can’t ask the animal how it is feeling, and because rodent behavior is much less complicated than human behavior. A cellular model is another option—a cell that can be grown in the […]

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Can we prevent suicide?

It’s fair to say that in the U.S., our attempts to prevent suicide thus far have failed—the rate of deaths by suicide has been constant for decades. In 2013, over 41,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. For Americans, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death (homicide is 16th). It is the second leading cause of death for 15 – 24 year olds in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death in that age group worldwide. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Are we learning anything that could help us prevent suicide?   So what is research telling us? Research has given us a pretty good picture of risk factors for suicide, and not much more at this point. We still know very little about why people attempt suicide under conditions where others do not. Nor do we have a very good sense of which interventions work […]

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How Close Are We to Cures?

A good question We recently received the following email: hi there, i was wondering how close we are to cures for mental illnesses like ocd, depression and schizophrenia. I wish there were a simple answer to this question – something like “Really close!” or “We’ll have cures next year.” But the truth is more complex, and probably comes in several parts. We are closer to cures than we were before In part one of the answer, we could compare our search for cures to where we were in 1887, when Emil Kraepelin identified schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as separate and distinct disorders (though he gave them different names than the ones we use today), and in a sense founded the modern study of mental illnesses. Kraepelin believed that there was a biological brain basis to mental illnesses, though he couldn’t possibly know what it was, given that the field of neuroscience […]

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Depression Breakthrough? The Many Faces of “Special K”

Recently, a 45-year-old anesthetic drug has been getting attention as a remarkably effective antidepressant. Ketamine is used for anesthesia in children as well as adults and animals, and sometimes for relief of chronic pain. It’s considered very safe. But it’s also known as Special K among people who use it as a hallucinogenic club drug. What makes ketamine special in mental illness is that it is the first truly new potential drug treatment in more than 50 years. Exploratory studies going back 13 years have suggested that ketamine has some unique effects in people with depression, both unipolar major depressive disorder and bipolar depression. So, what’s the big deal? First, ketamine acts fast. Unlike most current antidepressants on the market, which can take 6-8 weeks to work, ketamine shows antidepressant effects within 24 hours, sometimes in just a couple of hours. Second, ketamine works in people with treatment-resistant depression. A […]

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Focusing on Mental Illness during Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Month, or Mental Health Awareness Month. President Harry Truman first declared Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949, when mental health was much less talked-about. It’s safe to say we’ve come a long way since then in our attitudes toward mental health, in what we know about it, and in our treatments for mental health problems. Mental Health America, which leads Mental Health Month each year in May, has chosen “Mind Your Health” as this year’s theme, focusing on the importance of mental health in overall health, including “tips and tools for taking positive actions to protect mental health and promote whole health.”  Indeed, there is no health without mental health (as the MHA motto says), and it’s important for every one of us to remember that we can take steps to keep mentally healthy. But what about mental illness? Is awareness of mental health the same […]

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Depression Hits Close to Home

By Audra Moran My name is Audra Moran, and I am a founding board member of Cure Alliance for Mental Illness. I spent the early part of my career working in mental illness—first as a rehabilitation counselor and later in research funding, at the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, where I was Vice President for Development and Scientific Affairs. All of which is to say that I am no stranger to psychiatric brain disorders. So when my father, at age 60, experienced his first episode of major depression, I should have been prepared, but instead felt immobilized. What should or could I do to help, especially from so far away? I was in New York, he was home in central Florida. My first attempt to help didn’t go so well—a clinician I located in his area began my father on a course of antipsychotics, though his depression did not have […]

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