December 1st, 2011

Holistic treatments help depression

The results are in: You can easily enhance how you treat your patients’ depression at the holidays – or any time of year, for that matter – with this simple prescription: live healthfully.

A new study about to begin through Butler Hospital’s Psychosocial Research Dept. is delving into the science behind how daily huffing and puffing through exercise, stretching through yoga or amping up one’s healthy foods quotient can increase patient’s response to depression therapy.

The study is being led by Lisa A. Uebelacker, Ph.D., assistant professor (research) of psychiatry and human development, and family medicine at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University. She is also a staff psychologist at Butler. Using a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research the four-year study investigates whether adding “supplemental care” like exercise helps folks who feel their antidepressant medication does not mitigate all of their depression symptoms.

“People do traditional treatments like medicine and therapy and they really help; but sometimes they don’t help enough,” says Uebelacker. For patients who never really feel the vitality they’re looking for – or who still feel depressed in spite of their medications – Uebelacker says the study will see whether some logical, healthy changes in their lifestyle will be the ticket to increased quality of life.

The study supports Uebelacker’s overarching belief in other methods besides good medicine can support good mental health. “Certainly there has been evidence that exercise can be helpful in treating depression, but what I like about the study is that it’s about promoting good mental health through physical health,” she says.

Participants will randomly be assigned a 10-week yoga class or a series of healthy living workshops. Both programs are free and will be held at Butler. Participants will receive up to $175 to compensate for their time. At the study’s end, folks in either group may take part in the other program for free, if they wish.

Jonathan Brush, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in Cambridge, Mass., whose specialties for 29 years have included anxiety, depression, ADHD and cognitive behavioral therapy. Like Uebelacker, Brush believes a healthy body equals a healthy mind.

And at a time of year that proves especially stressful as people balance work and holidays, friends and family, spending vs. saving, Brush sees a rise in patients suffering depression after the holidays, not during. “People get busy, they do a lot of travel…but after the holidays they have to regroup and then heal. They realize they have to get into therapy.”

Brush says we all can do a few things to help keep sane this holiday season…starting with getting enough sleep, seeing the sun and making exercise a priority as much as time will allow.

“People definitely need to do something physical at least three times per week, even if it is just a brisk walk,” say Brush. In the winter, people tend to withdraw. But even climbing the stairs or parking a couple of blocks away from the office…anything they can do to get their heart and lungs moving” is helpful.

By Jennifer E Chase

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