Have you ever wondered what the person next to you is texting? Well, it may not be exactly what you think. Psychiatrists are now using cell phones to treat mood disorders, and what you see, is not what you get!
Researchers at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto have developed cell phone software that would allow teens to record mood changes as they occur, along with other pertinent health information related to depression and bipolar disorder.
“Mood disorders can significantly negatively impact an individual’s social, occupational and academic functioning,” said Dr. Anthony Levitt, chief of psychiatry and a co-investigator in the study.
Cell phones and air time are being provided to participants for the pilot project, said Dr. David Kreindler, a youth psychiatrist involved in developing the Calling for Care project. The goal is to see how receptive teens are to using the technology.
“For people like us, psychiatrists who are treating patients with mood disorders, one of the most helpful things you can do is keep what’s called a mood journal, a day-by-day record of how bad the various symptoms are.
“If you ask an adult to keep a mood journal, for the most part … they’ll do it just because the doctor told them to,” said Kreindler. “If you try doing it with teens, our own experience … is that they won’t.”
He said there are likely a number of reasons for that reticence: it’s a hassle, the novelty wears off and “they have to drag around a geeky-looking piece of paper and pen.”
“It would be a little bit odd, just practically speaking, for a teen to be sitting there with their mood journal in the middle of English class, making notes on their desk where everybody can peer over their shoulder,” said Kreindler.
“It’s probably less awkward for them socially if they’re doing something on a cell phone, rather than tying to do things on a piece of paper.”
The digital diaries would include entries on feelings of depression, elation, appetite, hours of sleep, energy levels and any suicidal thoughts. The recordings, sent daily by cellphone to the Sunnybrook team, would allow psychiatrists to look at mood patterns over time.
With the help of Motorola, which is involved on the technology side of the project, the team has also incorporated software called the Life Event Browser — allowing teens to report on any significant occurrence in their daily lives that substantially affected mood.
This sounds like a great idea. Not only will the participants be able to write down their thoughts and feelings, but in the long run science will still have the upper hand. Amen to cellphones! Let the miracles continue….
For anyone who needs local help for depression here in Palm Beach, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is located in Lake Worth, Florida. Their local # (561) 588-3477. They can also help you with any questions or referrals you may need.
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