How a simple blood test could improve life for more than half of depression patients.

If you've tried antidepressants to treat your depression, you probably already know this, but finding the right one can be a trial.

There are many different antidepressants out there today, and each works differently. Photo from Joe Raedle/Getty Images.


About 1 in 5 Americans will experience major depression during their lifetime. Antidepressant medication, either alone or in combination with things like cognitive behavior therapy or exercise, can be a powerful tool to help people live with depression — if it works.

Unfortunately, the go-to antidepressants don't work for more than half of the people who try them.

And about a third of all patients never find their perfect fit. This lack of response to the medication isn't anyone's fault — our bodies just work differently. But if you're looking to get help and worry about finding the right medication, a pretty amazing new tool could help.

If you've gone through this, you know the trial and error process can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. It can mean weeks or months of wondering what each new thought means: whether those couple of sleepless nights are a new side effect or just run-of-the-mill insomnia; whether the medication is having any effect at all.

Is this a side effect or just restlessness? At 3 a.m., the line can be hard to see. Image from iStock.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could skip some of that trial and error?

That's what a group of researchers in England is working on. Their research was just published in The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Their idea is a premedication blood test that would help find the right medication faster.

Image from iStock.

Over the past few years, scientists have been figuring out more and more about how depression affects our bodies. This new blood test measures the level of two biomarkers — or chemical signals — that have previously been linked to poor medication responses.

What they found is that different people had different levels of these biomarkers. If you were above a certain threshold, you had a 99% chance that the go-to meds wouldn't work for you. With this test, these people could save the time they would have spent in the past trying meds that would never work for them to begin with.

This new test could help more than half of the people who suffer from depression jump weeks — or even months — ahead in their treatment.


Image from iStock.

It's not a crystal ball — patients and psychiatrists would still need to work together to figure out the specifics — but instead a frustrating period of trial and error, some patients could skip straight to different medications, combinations, or non-medication-based treatments altogether.

This might sound like a simple thing, but if you've gone through those weeks of trial and error yourself, you know how much a relief this would be.

Brian Dow of the nonprofit Rethink Mental Illness was reported by The Independent as saying, "We hope this new research creates a much needed shortcut to a future where it's no longer luck of the draw when it comes to vital medication."

The next step is to take this from proof-of-concept to clinical trial.

Now that the science seems to back up the idea, the next step for scientists is to actually try it out in a clinical setting and see if it truly does work better than current methods.

In the future, treating depression could become easier and faster, helping people avoid the hassle of trial and error and letting them focus on the most important thing: getting healthy.

Family

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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