MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

Patients seek ‘last resort’ alternatives to treat depression

Sep 25, 2018, 8:09 AM | Updated: Sep 26, 2018, 1:17 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Imagine you have clinical depression. You’ve spent years trying all sorts of talk therapies and dozens of medications. Yet, the bad, foggy thoughts – including suicidal ones – just won’t go away.

There is still hope in the forms of alternative, lesser known treatments for depression right here in Utah. One is “magnetic therapy.”

Peter Cornish, 60, of Murray has spent his entire adult life-fighting depression.

“I don’t know how many episodes I’ve had, but I’m sure it’s over 20,” he said. “Most of them have lasted three months.”

Cornish struggled to get out of bed. His anxiety soared. By 2008, Cornish had to retire from his career in IT and software testing.

“That’s when I was losing hope,” he said. “I had been on a broad spectrum of different meds over the years and they weren’t working for me. So, that’s why we decided to try ECT.”

The team prepares to administer electroconvulsive therapy for a patient with depression.
Peter Cornish, 60, has battled depression most of his adult life.

Electroconvulsive therapy was the last resort for Cornish. Understandably, he didn’t want to do it.

“I don’t think anyone loves to go in-patient in a mental health unit,” he said. “On a scale of 1-to-10, where 1 is the worst depression, and 10 you’re feeling good, I was definitely at a 1.”

And American cinema has given the public frightening ideas about ECT.

“You know, like ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ and so forth, where the person is having a full convulsion,” said Dr. Brian Mickey. “That doesn’t happen in modern ECT.”

Dr. Mickey administers that treatment at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI).

“We use brief pulses as opposed to sign wave stimulation,” he said. “Sine waves are what come out of your electrical outlets. That’s very bad for memory and cognition.”

Sign waves can break bones.

In 2009, Peter Cornish had one of his ECT sessions recorded and uploaded on YouTube. He lay in a hospital bed at UNI, with electrodes strapped to his forehead – not his temples. Cornish inhaled anesthesia for unconsciousness and paralysis.

“The whole idea about going under with an anesthetic, I was very happy about that,” Cornish chuckled.

His body twitched but did not violently shake, like in the movies. Before his medically induced sleep, remember how Cornish ranked his depression at a 1?

“Ten minutes later, I felt like a 7,” he said. “It was remarkable for me.”

“This region that we’re stimulating, we believe, is connected with some other really important brain areas, these networks that we understand as being responsible for depression,” Dr. Mickey said.

To be sure, Dr. Mickey says the electrical pulses caused a seizure in Cornish.

“Seizures, although we don’t know exactly why, clearly cause sprouting of new neurons, and new connections between neurons,” he said.

Seizures also release serotonin, dopamine and other neurochemicals, Dr. Mickey added.

UNI, among other places, also offers TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, which doesn’t require anesthesia or cause seizures.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is an alternative treatment for depression.

The patient sits in a big chair.

“And then we put a stimulator coil over the forehead, over the frontal cortex,” Dr. Mickey said. “It delivers pulses of stimulation.”

During TMS, patients read or watch TV.

Magnetic therapies require several treatments per week for up to six weeks. Dr. Mickey says side effects include temporary pain and discomfort with TMS.

With ECT, “People are going to have some degree of memory problems,” he said. “We do our best to minimize that.”

And Cornish says ECT’s relief for depression wears away. He returned for treatments in 2013 and 2016.

Still, he’s convinced the treaments were absolutely worth it.

“I’ve had the healthiest decade of my life,” Cornish said. “I facetiously say that it’s actually better than going to the dentist.”

Not all insurances support these treatments, which Cornish and Dr. Mickey call last resorts. They require extensive consultation with medical professionals first.

Today’s Top Stories

Mental Health Resources

mental health rural...
Don Brinkerhoff

Staffing may be short at Huntsman Mental Health Institute; expert says reach out anyways if you need help

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute is experiencing a staffing shortage, but Business Operations Manager Anne Stephens says to call anyways if you need help.
1 month ago
Two cases of hepatitis have been found in Utah....
Amanda Dickson

Mental health services expanding for children (and parents) in Utah

Utah officials note a 300% increase in mental health crises in children over the last ten years. Immediate help can be a gamechanger.
1 month ago
Gov. Cox Ukraine State of the Union...
Mark Jones

May 7 declared as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah

Gov. Spencer Cox declared Saturday, May 7 as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah.
2 months ago
mental health daylight exposure...
Jacob Rueda

Researchers say mental health affected by daylight exposure

With daylight saving time possibly becoming permanent, researchers say daylight exposure can affect mental health, and more darkness during winter might be harmful,
3 months ago
Suicide prevention concert at the Maverik Center...
Jacob Rueda

Utah mental health centers ready for switch to new 988 number

Utah mental health facilities are preparing for an upgrade to the national suicide prevention number from a 10-digit number to a three-digit number.
4 months ago
A family photo shows Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, who at 10 years old died by suicide over the sec...
Aimee Cobabe and Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawmakers approve bill inspired by Izzy Tichenor to track who gets bullied at school

Utah lawmakers passed a bill to require school officials to collect data on kids who are getting bullied. That data would include the victim's demographics.
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Patients seek ‘last resort’ alternatives to treat depression