Scientists plan to use the money from Wellcome Trust to look for the “magic ingredient” in the brain that makes treatments successful for some patients, according to Dr. Leanne Williams, a Stanford neuroscientist. Mental health news also focuses on anxiety drug shortage; questions about Facebook monitoring potential suicides; the downside of therapy apps and more.
Successful mental health treatments can function like a conversation: The brain hears some kind of message — whether it’s from a drug or another other approach — and the brain responds in a way that alleviates some symptoms. Some scientists are listening in on those conversations — and trying to “back translate” them to figure out how successful treatments actually work. And that effort is about to get a big boost: The nonprofit Wellcome Trust recently announced a $200 million commitment to support more mental health research, including scientists studying the underpinnings of existing treatments. (Thielking, 2/1)
A sudden shortage of one of the safest anti-anxiety drugs on the market has spread alarm among people who rely on the medication, buspirone, to get through the day without debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. Physicians are also expressing concern, because there is no information about when the supply will resume, making it difficult to manage patients. Shelby Vittek, a 27-year-old writer in New Jersey, fruitlessly called dozens of drugstores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in an attempt to locate the medication after her pharmacist told her the drug was on back-order with no end in sight. (Rabin, 2/1)
A Facebook algorithm analyzes comments, posts and videos to predict when users might be suicidal. In thousands of cases, Facebook has notified police, who have have arrived to perform wellness checks. Is this a moral good? Or Is Facebook stepping into a health care role and overstepping its bounds? (Zuckoff and Bologna, 1/31)
This, the therapist in your pocket, could be the future of mental health, a way to offer millions of underserved people access to mental health care at a fraction of the usual cost. And it has the potential to vastly expand the reach of cognitive behavioral therapy, a proven alternative to drugs. But cognitive behavioral therapy, like all therapies, can have side effects, some of them quite serious. (Rodriguez McRobbie, 1/31)
Massachusetts still struggles to provide access to mental health care and addiction treatment, according to a new report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation. The report follows a December survey of more than 2,000 Massachusetts adults, which found that more than half of respondents reported difficulty accessing behavioral health care services last year. (Oakes and Thompson, 1/31)
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