American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, May 3-8, 2008
The American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting took place May 3-8 in Washington, D.C., and attracted about 16,000 attendees from around the world. "With Our Voice in Action" as its key theme, the meeting featured over 1,000 scientific sessions and covered topics including post-traumatic stress disorder in returning combat veterans, campus violence and the continuing promise of genetic research.
"Psychiatric treatment is not just about taking the right drug," said program chair David Baron, of Temple University in Philadelphia. "It's about understanding the individual. It's about understanding all the stress factors, past and present that are going on in a person's life, and using that to develop a comprehensive treatment strategy. That's not new, but it was underscored at this meeting as part of our key theme."
Multiple workshops and forums addressed the psychological stresses affecting soldiers and their families. "This is a big public health issue," Baron said. It's important that we in the mental health community are proactive in meeting the needs of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan before the wave crashes over our heads. So there was a lot of discussion about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. There was also a lot of discussion about meeting the needs of soldiers' families."
Highlights included: "Supporting Military Members and Their Families during Times of War: Needs, Challenges and Opportunities," a forum led by David Benedek, M.D.; "Psychological Effects of War: From the Battlefront to the Home Front and Back Again," a lecture by Col. Elspeth Ritchie, M.D.; "PTSD and Traumatic Stress: From Gene to Policy, Individual to Community and Trauma to Disaster," a lecture by Robert Ursano, M.D.; "Managing the Effects of Combat Trauma: The Evolving Practice at Walter Reed Army Medical Center," a forum chaired by Harold Wain, M.D.; and "The Air Force Suicide Prevention Program: A Community and Organizational Approach to Prevention," a workshop chaired by Steven Pflanz, M.D.
Multiple sessions also addressed the issue of campus violence, including factors that caused communities to miss warning signs of rampage killings, campus safety, and the impact of campus violence on state mental health systems. These sessions included: "School Shootings: Threat Recognition and Prevention," a symposium chaired by Jerald Block, M.D.; "The Social Responsibility of Universities for the Mental Health of Students and Community Safety," a symposium chaired by former APA President Steven Sharfstein, M.D.; and "The Virginia Tech Tragedy's Influence on Virginia's Mental Health System," a symposium chaired by Yad M. Jabbarpour, M.D.
"We had an excellent research track from the NIMH that included 18 symposia, four lectures and three workshops led by researchers who shared their new work in genomics and genetics," Baron said. "There were also a number of excellent sessions which looked at the psycho-social factors affecting how the brain is wired and how it communicates with itself. Other good sessions presented research which will improve our understanding of all the major mental illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety."
According to Baron, one of meeting's high points was "Cellular Plasticity Cascades: A Window Into Mood Disorders," presented by Husseni Manji, M.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). "He's one of the NIMH's superstars and did a number of superb sessions looking at the importance of neuroplasticity, not only in terms of understanding the pathophysiology of mental illnesses, but also showing how it will lead to the development of new treatment strategies."
Other highlights included sessions on the epigenetics of depression led by Eric Nestler, M.D., and Schahram Akbarian, M.D., psychiatric risk and the developing brain led by Jay Giedd, M.D., and the association between mental disorders, metabolism and cardiovascular risk, led by John W. Newcomer, M.D.
APA: Combo Therapy May Help in Post-Traumatic Stress
WEDNESDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder may benefit from virtual reality exposure therapy combined with medication, according to research presented this week at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
APA: Mental Health, Cardiovascular Links Discussed
WEDNESDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults with resistant vascular depression may benefit from new research, while patients treated with antipsychotic drugs may have an increased risk of cardiometabolic abnormalities, according to researchers from two symposia who spoke at a press conference this week at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
APA: Epigenetics Is Focus of Symposium
WEDNESDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- The new field of epigenetics -- which seeks to explain how environmental factors such as stress can cause subtle changes in DNA function by affecting support structures such as chromatin -- may lead to a better understanding of how depression develops, why many patients don't respond to conventional therapy, and the identification of new molecular targets, according to a National Institute of Mental Health-sponsored symposium presented this week at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.