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Help for those with depression during COVID-19

Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 9:57 AM EDT
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The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a crisis within a crisis … a mental health emergency. Compared to a 2018 survey, adults in the U.S. are now eight times more likely to feel serious mental distress. Researchers are taking a hard look at what works and what doesn’t when it comes to helping those suffering from depression and anxiety.

Your health, your job, your spouse, your kids … On a normal day any and all of these can stress you out!

Add on a global pandemic, the pressure is sending more than one-third of Americans into a state of clinical depression and overwhelming anxiety.

“For me it was having no energy, no motivation, always just trapped inside my head,” shared Robert Mason, founder and CEO of Letters Against Depression.

But what do you do if medication doesn’t work? New research shows only 40 percent of patients respond to the first antidepressant they try. Scientists from McGill University have found a protein in the blood and the brain called GPR56 dramatically changes in people who respond to antidepressants. By using a simple blood test, doctors can quickly find out if antidepressants would be useful.

Meanwhile, Stanford researchers are testing a new version of magnetic brain stimulation, an FDA approved treatment that sends magnetic pulses to the brain. It’s called SAINT or Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy. It increases the number of magnetic pulses, speeds up the pace and targets the pulses to each individual. A study found 90 percent of participants felt rapid relief from severe depression symptoms.

“Because if you keep that hope in you and you make it through, you’ll see that a lot of what your brain is telling you is a lie,” Mason added.

Artificial intelligence may also soon play a critical role in choosing which depression therapy is best for patients. Researchers at UT Southwestern have developed a computer that can accurately predict whether an antidepressant will work based on a patient’s brain activity.

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