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Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and impact; they cause widespread disruption and adversity throughout the world. The Canterbury earthquakes of 2010–2011 were devastating for the people of Christchurch, New Zealand. It is important to understand the impact of this disaster on the mental health of children and adolescents.
To report psychiatric medication use for children and adolescents following the Canterbury earthquakes.
Dispensing data from community pharmacies for the medication classes antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, sedatives/hypnotics and methylphenidate are routinely recorded in a national database. Longitudinal data are available for residents of the Canterbury District Health Board (DHB) and nationally. We compared dispensing data for children and adolescents residing in Canterbury DHB with national dispensing data to assess the impact of the Canterbury earthquakes on psychotropic prescribing for children and adolescents.
After longer-term trends and population adjustments are considered, a subtle adverse effect of the Canterbury earthquakes on dispensing of antidepressants was detected. However, the Canterbury earthquakes were not associated with higher dispensing rates for antipsychotics, anxiolytics, sedatives/hypnotics or methylphenidate.
Mental disorders or psychological distress of a sufficient severity to result in treatment of children and adolescents with psychiatric medication were not substantially affected by the Canterbury earthquakes.
Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity. They cause widespread hardship and are associated with detrimental effects on mental health.
Our aim is to provide the best estimate of the effects of natural disasters on mental health through a systematic review and meta-analysis of the rates of psychological distress and psychiatric disorder after natural disasters.
This systematic review and meta-analysis is limited to studies that met predetermined quality criteria. We required included studies to make comparisons with pre-disaster or non-disaster exposed controls, and sample representative populations. Key studies were identified through a comprehensive search of PubMed, EMBASE and PsycINFO from 1980 to 3 March 2017. Random effects meta-analyses were performed for studies that reported key outcomes with appropriate statistics.
Forty-one studies were identified by the literature search, of which 27 contributed to the meta-analyses. Continuous measures of psychological distress were increased after natural disasters (combined standardised mean difference 0.63, 95% CI 0.27–0.98, P = 0.005). Psychiatric disorders were also increased (combined odds ratio 1.84, 95% CI 1.43–2.38, P < 0.001). Rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression were significantly increased after disasters. Findings for anxiety and alcohol misuse/dependence were not significant. High rates of heterogeneity suggest that disaster-specific factors and, to a lesser degree, methodological factors contribute to the variance between studies.
Increased rates of psychological distress and psychiatric disorders follow natural disasters. High levels of heterogeneity between studies suggest that disaster variables and post-disaster response have the potential to mitigate adverse effects.
The acute psychiatric inpatient service in Christchurch, New Zealand, recently changed from two locked and two unlocked wards to four open wards. This provided the opportunity to evaluate whether shifting to an unlocked environment was associated with higher rates of adverse events, including unauthorised absences, violent incidents and seclusion. We compared long-term adverse event data before and after ward configuration change.
Rates of unauthorised absences increased by 58% after the change in ward configuration (P = 0.005), but seclusion hours dropped by 53% (P = 0.001). A small increase in violent incidents was recorded but this was not statistically significant.
Although unauthorised absences increased, the absence of statistically significant changes for violent incidents and a reduction in seclusion hours suggest that the change to a less restrictive environment may have some positive effects.
There has been a long interest in the relationship between folate and depression.
In this paper, we report baseline measures of red cell folate that were collected during a randomized trial of 107 patients with major depression. Red cell folate levels were examined for association with percentage improvement in depressive symptoms during treatment with fluoxetine or nortriptyline. The influences of possible confounding factors were assessed.
The low red cell folate group (defined in relation to the median) had a significantly poorer response to nortriptyline. This effect of red cell folate levels was not present in those treated with fluoxetine. No relationships were found between red cell folate levels and possible confounding factors of age, nutritional status, alcohol history, depression subtype, depression severity and chronicity of depression.
Response to nortriptyline was affected by red cell folate status. It may, therefore, be beneficial to consider folate augmentation in patients with major depression, particularly if treated with nortriptyline.
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