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Anthropology is defined as “the study of humans”, while psychiatric anthropology is a subfield of cultural anthropology which uses qualitative methodologies to explore the experience of mental illness. In a field that is often dominated by quantitative research, an anthropological approach allows us to understand experiences surrounding illness and the cultural context of mental illness. The articles presented in this issue of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine explore individual and group perspectives within a variety of cultural and historical contexts. This compilation of articles unearths fascinating insights into the lived experiences of distinct and vulnerable groups, including young people, migrants and members of the travelling community. Harnessing these insights can help us to tailor our services to the needs of societal populations, as well as improving therapeutic relationships with the ultimate goal of better treatment outcomes.
Mental health issues are fast becoming one of society’s greatest health challenges with evidence of higher levels of illness and strain on psychiatric services. The reasons for this trend of increasing mental health problems across the population are complex and there is an urgent need to research and deliver effective public mental health strategies. In this perspective piece we argue that psychiatrists and public health physicians have unique knowledge and perspectives on population mental health. The development of interdisciplinary initiatives and training posts would result in clinicians with expertise to drive forward public mental health strategies. Focused and sustained advocacy and collaboration are necessary for prioritisation of public mental health on policymakers’ agendas.
The novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has spread worldwide threatening human health. To reduce transmission, a ‘lockdown’ was introduced in Ireland between March and May 2020. The aim of this study is to capture the experiences of consultant psychiatrists during lockdown and their perception of it’s impact on mental health services.
A questionnaire designed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists was adapted and circulated to consultant members of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland following the easing of restrictions. The questionnaire assessed the perceived impact on referral rates, mental health act provision, availability of information technology (IT), consultant well-being and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). Thematic analysis was employed to analyse free-text sections.
Response rate was 32% (n = 197/623). Consultants reported an initial decrease/significant decrease in referrals in the first month of lockdown (68%, n = 95/140) followed by an increase/significant increase in the second month for both new (83%, n = 100/137) and previously attending patients (65%, n = 88/136). Social isolation and reduced face-to-face mental health supports were among the main reasons identified. The needs of children and older adults were highlighted. Most consultants (76%, n = 98/129) felt their working day was affected and their well-being reduced (52%, n = 61/119). The majority felt IT equipment availability was inadequate (67%, n = 88/132). Main themes identified from free-text sections were service management, relationship between patients and healthcare service and effects on consultants’ lives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed increased pressure on service provision and consultant wellness. This further supports the longstanding need to increase mental health service investment.
Webinars have recently replaced in-person medical conferences, including paediatric cardiology conferences, given the COVID-19 pandemic.
With increasing environmental concerns, we analysed the differences between the environmental footprint of a paediatric cardiology webinar with a hypothetical conference. Travel data was collected, with assumptions made on the amount of computer use, internet use and accordingly the overall use of electricity for both forms of conference. Life Cycle Assessment methodology was used (OpenLCA and Ecovinvent v 3.7).
We showed that the theoretical environmental impact of a virtual conference is significantly less (4 tons CO2 equivalent) than the traditional international face-to-face conference (192 tons CO2 equivalent). The life cycle assessment methodology showed that resource use for a face-to-face conference lasting 2.5 days for 1374 attendees is equivalent to 400 times what an average person would use in one year, the climate change and photochemical ozone formation approximately 250 times and the eutrophication terrestrial equivalent to 225 times. However, using carbon equivalent emissions to measure environmental harm from flying is an under estimate of the potential damage, when one considers the additional production of airplane contrails. Notwithstanding this, there is a 98% reduction in climate change impact when meetings are held virtually.
While the virtual conference may never completely replace the traditional in-person paediatric cardiology conference, due to networking benefits, the significant theoretical benefits to the environment highlighted in this study, warrants consideration for the virtual conference taking a more common place in sustainable academia.
When presenting with a first episode of psychosis (FEP), migrants can have different demographic and clinical characteristics to the native-born population and this was examined in an Irish Early Intervention for Psychosis service.
All cases of treated FEP from three local mental health services within a defined catchment area were included. Psychotic disorder diagnoses were determined using the SCID and symptom and functioning domains were measured using validated and reliable measures.
From a cohort of 612 people, 21.1% were first-generation migrants and there was no difference in the demographic characteristics, diagnoses, symptoms or functioning between migrants and those born in the Republic of Ireland, except that migrants from Africa presented with less insight. Of those admitted, 48.6% of admissions for migrants were involuntary compared to 37.7% for the native-born population (p = 0.09).
First-generation migrants now make up a significant proportion of people presenting with a FEP to an Irish EI for psychosis service. Broadly the demographic and clinical characteristics of migrants and those born in the Republic of Ireland are similar, except for less insight in migrants from Africa and a trend for a higher proportion of involuntary admissions in the total migrant group.
COVID-19 continues to exert unprecedented challenges for society and it is now well recognised that mental health is a key healthcare issue related to the pandemic. The current edition of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine focusses on the impact of COVID-19 on mental illness by combining historical review papers, current perspectives and original research. It is important that psychiatrists leading mental health services in Ireland continue to advocate for mental health supports for healthcare workers and their patients, while aiming to deliver services flexibly. As the pandemic evolves, it remains to be seen whether the necessary funding to deliver effective mental healthcare will be allocated to psychiatric services. Ongoing service evaluation and research is needed as the myriad impacts of the pandemic continue to evolve. In a time of severe budgetary constraints, ensuring optimum use of scare resources becomes an imperative.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the greatest global challenge in a generation. The full extent of the mental health impact is, as yet, unknown, but is anticipated to be severe and enduring. In this Special Issue dedicated to mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic, we aim to lay the foundation for an improved understanding of how COVID-19 is affecting mental health services both in Ireland and globally. This Special Issue highlights how the mental health effects of COVID-19 stretch to almost every element of society. The issue includes perspectives from several countries across multiple disciplines and healthcare settings. The drive for rapid innovation and service development is clearly evident throughout and provides hope that by working collaboratively we can positively impact population mental health in the months and years ahead.
COVID-19 has presented society with one of the greatest challenges in living memory. Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs)have needed to adapt quickly to a rapidly developing situation which has had a dramatic impact on society. In this piece, we describe some of the early challenges for CMHTs within two mental health services based in Dublin and Wicklow. We also discuss ongoing developments and anticipate the need for further vigilance as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.
The emergence of COVID-19 has recently dominated public discourse given its serious impact on vulnerable patient groups. Advice in relation to reducing risk of contamination has justifiably been circulated widely during the COVID-19 crisis. Contamination fear is a common obsessional theme in patients with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and there is a need for increased research on how infectious disease epidemics affect patients with OCD. We present the case of a lady in her 30s with a history of well-controlled contamination OCD who presented acutely with a significant exacerbation of OCD symptoms precipitated by media reports of COVID-19. The case highlights the potential psychological impacts of infectious disease epidemics on individuals with mental illness. We also highlight some of the risks posed to such patients in response to epidemics such as the COVID-19 crisis.
There is limited knowledge of how individuals reflect on their involuntary admission.
To investigate, at one year after an involuntary admission,
(i) peoples perception of the necessity of their involuntary admission
(ii) the enduring impact on the relationship with their family, consultant psychiatrist and employment prospects
(iii) readmission rates to hospital and risk factors for readmission.
People that were admitted involuntarily over a 15 month period were re-interviewed at one year following discharge.
Sixty eight people were re-interviewed at one year and this resulted in a follow-up rate of 84%. Prior to discharge, 72% of people reported that their involuntary admission had been necessary however this reduced to 60% after one year. Over one third of people changed their views and the majority of these patients reflected negatively towards their involuntary admission.
One quarter of people continued to experience a negative impact on the relationship with a family member and their consultant psychiatrist one year after an involuntary admission, while 13% reported a positive impact. A similar proportion perceived that it had negative consequences in their employment.
Within one year, 43% of all patients involuntarily admitted in the study period were readmitted to hospital and half of these admissions were involuntary. Involuntary readmission was associated with a sealing over recovery style.
Peoples’ perception of the necessity of their involuntary admissions changes significantly over time. Involuntary admissions can have a lasting negative impact on the relationship with family members and treating consultant psychiatrist.
The use of physical coercion and involuntary admission is one of the most controversial practices in medicine, it is now understood that perceived coercion is multidimensional and is associated with procedural justice and perceived pressures, and not simply related to the legal status of the patient.
We sought to determine the rate of physical coercion used and the perceived pressures and procedural justice experienced by the person at the time of involuntary admission and whether this influenced future engagement with the mental health services.
Over a 15 month period, people admitted involuntarily were interviewed prior to discharge and at one year follow-up.
81 people participated in the study and 81% were interviewed at one year follow-up. At the time of involuntary admission, over half of people experienced at least one form of physical coercion and it was found that the level of procedural justice experienced was unrelated to the use of physical coercive measures. A total of 20% of participants intended not to voluntarily engage with the mental health services upon discharge and they were more likely to have experienced lower levels of procedural justice at the time of admission. At one year following discharge, 65% of participants were adherent with outpatient appointments and 18% had been readmitted involuntarily. The level of procedural justice experienced at admission did not predict future engagement with services.
This study demonstrates that the use of physical coercive measures is a separate entity from procedural justice and perceived pressures.
We sought to determine the level of procedural justice experienced by individuals at the time of involuntary admission and whether this influenced future engagement with the mental health services.
Over a 15-month period, individuals admitted involuntarily were interviewed prior to discharge and at one-year follow-up.
Eighty-one people participated in the study and 81% were interviewed at one-year follow-up. At the time of involuntary admission, over half of individuals experienced at least one form of physical coercion and it was found that the level of procedural justice experienced was unrelated to the use of physical coercive measures. A total of 20% of participants intended not to voluntarily engage with the mental health services upon discharge and they were more likely to have experienced lower levels of procedural justice at the time of admission. At one year following discharge, 65% of participants were adherent with outpatient appointments and 18% had been readmitted involuntarily. Insight was associated with future engagement with the mental health services; however, the level of procedural justice experienced at admission did not influence engagement.
This study demonstrates that the use of physical coercive measures is a separate entity from procedural justice and perceived pressures.
Negative symptoms have been previously reported during the psychosis prodrome, however our understanding of their relationship with treatment-phase negative symptoms remains unclear.
We report the prevalence of psychosis prodrome onset negative symptoms (PONS) and ascertain whether these predict negative symptoms at first presentation for treatment.
Presence of expressivity or experiential negative symptom domains was established at first presentation for treatment using the Scale for Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) in 373 individuals with a first episode psychosis. PONS were established using the Beiser Scale. The relationship between PONS and negative symptoms at first presentation was ascertained and regression analyses determined the relationship independent of confounding.
PONS prevalence was 50.3% in the schizophrenia spectrum group (n = 155) and 31.2% in the non-schizophrenia spectrum group (n = 218). In the schizophrenia spectrum group, PONS had a significant unadjusted (χ2 = 10.41, P < 0.001) and adjusted (OR = 2.40, 95% CI = 1.11–5.22, P = 0.027) association with first presentation experiential symptoms, however this relationship was not evident in the non-schizophrenia spectrum group. PONS did not predict expressivity symptoms in either diagnostic group.
PONS are common in schizophrenia spectrum diagnoses, and predict experiential symptoms at first presentation. Further prospective research is needed to examine whether negative symptoms commence during the psychosis prodrome.
GXR, a selective α2A-adrenergic agonist, is a non-stimulant treatment for ADHD (approved in the USA for children and adolescents and in Canada for children).
To assess the efficacy (symptoms and function) and safety of dose-optimized GXR compared with placebo in children and adolescents with ADHD.
To evaluate the efficacy (symptom and function) and safety of GXR for the treatment of ADHD. An atomoxetine (ATX) arm was included to provide reference data against placebo (NCT01244490).
Patients (6–17 years) were randomly assigned at baseline to dose-optimized GXR (6–12 years, 1–4 mg/day; 13–17 years, 1–7 mg/day), ATX (10–100mg/day) or placebo for 4 or 7 weeks. The primary efficacy measure is change from baseline in ADHD-Rating Scale-version IV (ADHD-RS-IV). Key secondary measures were defined as Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement (CGI-I) and the Weiss Functional Impairment Rating Scale-Parent (WFIRS-P). Safety assessments included treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs), electrocardiograms, and vital signs.
Of 338 patients randomized, 272 (80.5%) completed the study. Placebo-adjusted differences in least squares (LS) mean in ADHD-RS-IV total score, percent improvement versus placebo for CGI-I, placebo-adjusted differences in LS mean change from baseline in WFIRS-P score (family and learning and school domains) are shown in the Table. The most common TEAEs for GXR were somnolence, headache, and fatigue; 8 (7%) TEAEs were severe.
GXR was effective and well tolerated in children and adolescents with ADHD.
Placebo-adjusted difference in LS mean change from baseline in ADHD-RS-IV total score (95% Cl, p-value; effect size)
−8.9 (−11.9, −5.8, p<0.001; 0.76)
−3.8 (−6.8, −0.7, p<0.05; 0.32)
Difference in improvement from placebo for CGI-I (95% Cl, p-value)
23.7% (11.1, 36.4; p<0.001)
12.1% (−0.9, 25.1; p<0.05)
Placebo-adjusted difference in LS mean change from baseline in WFIRS-P; learning and school domain score (95%CI, p-value; effect size)
−0.22 (−0.36, −0.08, p<0.01; 0.42)
−0.16 (−0.31, −0.02, p<0.05; 0.32)
Placebo-adjusted difference in LS mean change from baseline in WFIRS-P; family domain score (95%CI, p-value; effect size)
GXR, a selective α2A-adrenergic agonist, is a non-stimulant ADHD treatment approved in the USA for children and adolescents, and in Canada for children.
To evaluate long-term maintenance of efficacy of GXR in children and adolescents with ADHD who respond to an initial open-label, short-term trial.
To determine if there is a higher rate of treatment failure for placebo vs GXR during the double-blind randomised-withdrawal phase (RWP) (NCT01081145).
Patients (6–17 years) meeting DSM-IV-TR criteria for ADHD, baseline ADHD Rating Scale-IV (ADHD-RS-IV) ≥32 and Clinical Global Impressions-Severity (CGI-S) ratings ≥4 were enrolled. Following 7-week dose optimization and 6-week maintenance periods on open-label GXR (1–7 mg/day), eligible patients entered a 26-week, double-blind, RWP with GXR or placebo. The primary endpoint was rate of treatment failure (≥50% increase in ADHD-RS-IV total score and ≥2-point increase in CGI-S at two consecutive visits, compared to the RWP baseline). The key secondary endpoint was time-to-treatment failure. Safety assessments included treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs), electrocardiograms and vital signs.
Of 528 patients enrolled, 316 (60.0%) entered the RWP. At study end, 49.3% (GXR) and 64.9% (placebo) (95%CI; −26.6, −4.5, p<0.01) of patients had relapsed (Figure). Time-to-treatment failure was 56 days (placebo) versus 218 days (GXR), p=0.003. During the RWP, the most common GXR TEAEs (≥5% patients) were headache, somnolence and nasopharyngitis.
GXR demonstrated long-term maintenance of efficacy versus placebo in children and adolescents with ADHD.