Hope for Depression Blog

Guest Bloggers

  • Louisa Benton

    Executive Director

  • Steven P. Roose, M.D

    Professor of Clinical Psychiatry

  • Huda Akil, Ph.D

    DTF Chair

Pride Month and Mental Health Awareness, Friday 29 June 2018
June 28, 2018 marked the 49th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, the event that sparked the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States, and later inspired Pride events every June. In honor of this important milestone, we wanted to shed light on mental health issues still affecting the LGBTQ community.

Unfortunately, a stigma still exists surrounding LGBTQ communities, which leads to increased rates of bullying, harassment, and even homelessness among a disproportionately large percentage of this population, particularly LGBTQ youth. Such stressors put these individuals at a much greater risk of developing mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

A 2016 CDC report states some alarming statistics about suicidality, including:

  • LGBTQ youth seriously consider suicide at three times the rate of their straight peers, and are five times as likely to have attempted suicide
  • Suicide attempts by LGBTQ youth are four to six times as likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires medical intervention

With your help we can reduce stigma around LGBTQ identity! While we work towards a safer and happier future, there are thankfully many resources available for LGBTQ people in crisis that we encourage you to share. A few are listed below:

HDRF’s work to fund research into the origins, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of depression and its related mood disorders will go a long way to ensure the safety of the many proud and brave LGBTQ members of our society.

Sources:

CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Sexual Orientation and Depression: Statistics and Where to Find Help.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health/depression/gay.

Food and Your Mood, Monday 18 June 2018

As summer sets in, let’s not forget the importance of self-care for our mood. Self-care includes things like sleep, exercise and diet, and it is crucial for our overall mind-brain health.

We’ve talked about sleep and exercise in the past, but not yet about diet.  What we eat matters for every aspect of our health, including our mental health.

Diet and Emotional Well-being

A growing body of research shows that a healthy, natural food diet can help prevent depression.  And an unhealthy diet – high in processed and refined foods – increases the risk for the illness in everyone, including children and teens.

Here is what one recent research review of multiple studies concluded:

“A dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and anti-oxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes, and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk for depression.”

The Stomach-Brain Connection

Diet is such an important component of mental health that is has inspired an entire field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry.  Mind-body medicine specialist Dr. Eva Selhub of Harvard University has written a cogent summary of what nutritional psychiatry is and what it means for you.  Click here to read.

What we eat not only feeds our brain but affects our microbiome – the trillions of microorganisms living in our gut, studies show.  The gut microbiome makes molecules that communicate with the brain and alter the production of a key neurotransmitter — serotonin.  A proper diet enhances this complex communication between gut and brain, experts say.

The Bottom Line

So, what to make for dinner tonight?  There are several healthy options that can be used as a guide.  One that comes up frequently is the Mediterranean diet.

This gist of it is eat lots of plants, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, with some lean proteins like fish and yoghurt.  Avoid things made with added sugars or flours (like breads, baked goods, cereals and pastas) and minimize animal fats, processed meats, and butter.  Occasional intake of “bad” foods is probably fine; but remember, everything in moderation.

For those struggling with clinical depression, a good diet cannot replace medication or therapy, but it certainly can’t hurt.  At the very least, it can serve as a supplemental treatment that also has a giant upside.  You’ll feel better and you may help prevent many other health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.

In the Wake of Celebrity Suicide, Friday 15 June 2018
Since the shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, calls to the national suicide hotline have surged.  The story was featured recently in the Wall Street Journal, with the staggering statistic that the rate of suicide in New York is five per hour.  (read more)

But reaching out for professional help should not have to wait for a tragic headline.  This weekend the New York Times had two feature articles about:

1)  the rising suicide rate in the United States (read more)

2)  the ongoing stigma around depression — a deadly barrier to treatment. (read more)

We applaud the media for the recognition of depression and mental health issues as a major global public health issue.  At HDRF, we are working every day to find the biological causes of suicide and new antidepressants that work for those who do not respond to existing medications.

We are also committed to sparking a national conversation.  There needs to be more discussion, more information, and more mindfulness of each other and our possible mental health struggles.

If you want to get involved in a concrete way, please join us as we gather as a community in Southampton on August 5 for the Walk of HOPE + 5K Run to Defeat Depression.   Every step you take with us raises depression awareness.  Every dollar you raise with us goes to urgent depression research. Register Here. 

We look forward to walking and working with you to defeat depression.

HDRF Depression Task Force Holds Second Annual Research Retreat, Thursday 14 June 2018

Six principal investigators of the Hope for Depression Research Foundation’s Depression Task Force met last month in Montreal, Canada for an intensive retreat with 28 of the young post-doctoral fellows working in their labs.

The groundbreaking retreat brought together six powerful neuroscience labs from Columbia University, McGill University, University of Michigan, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Rockefeller University.

It was the second annual retreat for this group of young scientists and their mentors who are working together on a joint research plan to find new and better treatments for depression.

“We are here together to exchange research information and deepen scientific connections,” said Dr. Huda Akil, Chair of the Depression Task Force and Professor of Neuroscience at U Michigan.

The retreat kicked off with a group dinner on Thursday night, followed by a full day of scientific presentations on Friday.  The young scientists shared data from ongoing studies that point to promising new targets in the brain for treating depression.

“These discussions are what the Task Force is all about,” said Dr. Michael Meaney, Professor of Biological Psychiatry at McGill in Montreal.  “These kids are so smart and their passion and breadth of expertise is incredible.”

Dr. Akil pointed out that the building of trust across labs is one of the great accomplishments of the HDRF Depression Task Force, a collaboration of top investigators formed in 2010 to pool expertise and data to accelerate research.

Dr. Akil continued:  “Young scientists are often told, ‘Don’t share your work – it’s a competitive world out there,’ but with the Task Force it’s okay, you are among family.”

All of the participants remarked on the historic bonding between labs from competing institutions.  “The gold is in these discussions,” said Dr. Meaney. “This is the next generation of science.”

To read more about the Depression Task Force and their latest progress, please click here

The Tragedy of Kate Spade, Wednesday 13 June 2018

We are deeply saddened by the death of Kate Spade.  Our thoughts are first and foremost with her family.  Her suicide is not only tragic, but also a profound reminder that we must end the stigma that surrounds mental illness. 

Conflicting stories in the news raise the question of whether Kate sought treatment for her depression.  What it comes down to is this:  Nobody should have to lose their life because they were hesitant to seek therapy.  It is heartbreaking that Kate Spade may have refused the lifeline of intensive treatment because of fear – fear about the effect on her public image. (Read more here.)

Her loss reminds us that silence and stigma are killers.  Untreated depression is the primary reason why someone takes their life in the US every fourteen minutes, well over 40,000 a year.  A shocking number, particularly with media awareness about depression on the rise.

Now more than ever, we must get the facts out about depression and create a culture in which depression can be discussed as openly as medical illness.  At HDRF, we are working every day to find the biological causes of suicide and new antidepressants. We are also committed to public education and discussion.

We hope you will help be an ambassador for HDRF’s mission by forwarding this message to your friends, colleagues and family.

Thank you for your support of HDRF’s mission to fund the research that can transform our understanding and treatment of this complex and shattering illness.