by Eric Achtyes, M.D.
For years Pine Rest has been a cornerstone in our community for patient care and educating students and trainees about psychiatric illnesses. We have a wealth of experience and expertise in these areas. By involving ourselves in research, we are not only aiming to provide the best evidence based care available, but we are discovering and defining the best practices of tomorrow.
There is also an ethical imperative to participate in research. If we benefit from treatments research has brought us over the years, we also ought to participate in the cost or burden of driving that research forward ourselves.
As next week is mental illness awareness week, I wanted to focus on several areas where Pine Rest is engaged in research to address the difficult problem of clinical depression.
1) Pharmacogenomics – aims to find the right antidepressant the first time using personalized medication selection based on your own unique genetic profile. It looks at the unique ways our bodies transport and metabolize medicines and serotonin, one of the important neurotransmitters thought to be in short supply in depression.
2) Novel antidepressants – we are looking at a unique antidepressant that may help both the symptoms of depression and improve the ability of depressed patients to sleep – a key symptom for many people suffering with depression.
3) CAT-DI – this study seeks to examine the use of a new tool for the diagnosis and assessment of depression symptoms, anxiety and bipolar disorder. It is both computerized, and adaptive, meaning that it may need to ask only a few questions to provide an accurate screening for these disorders. By repeating standardized assessments over time, we will be able to track patients’ improvements with the treatments that are given.
Future treatment for those with depression is promising. We have a lot more tools than we used to have. When I’m working with someone, I ask them to be patient. Given some time, we can usually find a treatment that works well, without a lot of side effects – whether that is medication, therapy or counseling, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or some of the new therapies being developed such as transcranial magnetic stimulation. The good news is there is now a lot we can do to help those battling depression.
Eric Achtyes, M.D. is a fully licensed psychiatrist at Pine Rest and director of the division of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Michigan State University – College of Human Medicine.