Depression

Matt Bloom/KUNC

A chorus of voices fills a Denver call center, coming from the rows of soldier-like operators in cubicles.

“Colorado support line. This is Caroline,” a female operator says. “Who am I speaking with?”

The caller’s words are muffled, inaudible to anyone but the operator. In the next cubicle, a male operator is finishing his conversation.

Patrick Campbell / CU-Boulder

It's no secret that schools struggle to address the mental health issues of their students. Many teachers feel ill-equipped to recognize, let alone support, a student who demonstrates symptoms of mental illness.

That's one reason behind Safe Communities Safe Schools, a University of Colorado-Boulder program designed to encourage emotional health and well-being in schools, and to identify and treat students who have mental health issues. The initiative is the recipient of more than $6 million from the National Institute of Justice to bring the program to 32 middle schools along the Front Range.

Teens call it "Special K," a club drug that produces hallucinatory, out-of-body effects. But evidence is mounting that it's also a fast-acting treatment for patients with severe depression.

The latest study shows that ketamine, an FDA-approved anesthetic, can act in a matter of days for some people who don't respond to traditional antidepressants. Those drugs don't work for 40 percent of patients.

When students show up at college in the fall, they'll have to deal with new classes, new friends and a new environment. In many cases, they will also have new roommates — and an intriguing new research study suggests this can have important mental health consequences.

Depression can have physical consequences. Research now suggests that when people get depressed in middle age and beyond, they're more likely to develop dementia in old age.

But the link between depression and dementia remains something of a mystery. Researchers are working to understand why that occurs and what might be done to prevent dementia.

Having a mate is supposed to be good for your mental health.

But if that mate is critical or can't be counted on when the going gets tough, that's worse than having no mate at all, researchers say.

"The quality of your relationships matters more than quantity when it comes to depression," says Dr. Alan Teo, a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan who led the study.

Two years ago today, an earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of people living near the plant were forced to flee. The World Health Organization recently predicted a very small rise in cancer risk from radioactive material that was released. For the nuclear refugees, though, anxiety and depression could be the more persistent hazard. Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel traveled to Fukushima prefecture and met victims of the accident to see how they are coping.

In 2004, after an extensive review, the Food and Drug Administration issued a strong warning to doctors who prescribed antidepressants to teens and children.

Antidepressants, the FDA said, appeared to increase suicide among kids and teens. Doctors needed to be careful. The FDA even mandated that a "black-box warning," the strongest type, be placed on antidepressant packaging.

A club drug called "Special K" is generating a lot of buzz among researchers who study depression.

That's because "Special K," which is actually an FDA-approved anesthetic named ketamine, can relieve even suicidal depression in a matter of hours. And it works on many patients who haven't responded to current antidepressants like Prozac.

Those traditional drugs, which act on the brain's serotonin system, can take more than a month to kick in, and don't work for up to 40 percent of people with major depression.