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article imageLearning from Robin Williams: A new tune of hope for depression

By Michael Essany     Aug 13, 2014 in Health
The sudden and shocking death of Robin Williams has reverberated around the world this week as millions struggle to grasp a reality that seems almost too impossible to believe. But, sadly, it is.
Consequently, not only are the masses mourning the passing of a beloved comedian and actor, Williams' struggles with depression, complicated by years of battle against alcohol and drug addictions, have brought the topic of depression to the forefront of the national conversation.
That, even Williams would probably agree were he still with us, is perhaps the sole point of light in a dark story.
Depression is serious business. While it affects approximately 19 million Americans, more than 80 percent of people with mood-related disorders do not receive what the National Institute of Mental Health defines as even "minimally adequate treatment." The reasons range from failure of diagnosis (or misdiagnosis) to lack of access to proper treatment.
Clearly, depression is not only an individual condition, but also a cultural issue. While the genesis of depression for any one person is often a multi-pronged event, studies by the Centers for Disease Control and others have determined that certain people -- including persons 45 to 64 years of age (Williams was 63), women, those previously married, the unemployed, and those without health insurance coverage, among others -- are more likely to experience either short- or long-term incidences of depression.
Williams was fighting a valiant battle against his many bouts of depression. Unlike many, he had access to medication, therapy, and rehab.
Sadly, while anti-depressant drugs, talk therapy, and other treatments can have beneficial effects, there is still too much that is not known about depression. Researchers continue to study sufferers in order to better understand its many permutations and to work toward more effective treatments.
What can help? True, some "cures" that pop up -- from magnetic therapy to fish oil intake to induced comas -- have a snake oil patina. But promising new interventions are indeed surfacing as both professionals in the field and creative innovators put their energies into developing effective strategies.
Interestingly, a new school of thought suggests that abetting depression may involve not just "trying to treat moods," but understanding how the brain itself falls out of structural balance -- and what might be done to facilitate realignment.
An example is Advanced Brain Technologies' inTime method of helping people with a range of challenges from symptoms of depression and anxiety to dementia and other conditions. The inTime program provides a personalized program of listening training and beat-based activities using body, drum, and voice to stimulate changes in self-regulation, sensory-motor function, and interaction.
The ability to synchronize movement to a steady beat relates to the brain’s response to sound -- the positive effects of which are well documented by neuroscientists. And, musical training with an emphasis on movement synchronization to musical beats can improve brain synchrony. inTime was created to engage multiple brain regions through a combination of music, rhythm, and beat-based activities, helping children, teens, and adults stimulate improved focus and stress response.
One participant and depression sufferer, Suzanne Heath, from inTime's first study phase self-reported her experience, saying in part:
"Within only 1 to 2 weeks, I became aware that I was no longer crying every day. I felt more in control of my emotions and I had regained some of my composure. After I completed the first part of the trial, I was able to hold a conversation and relate a story without becoming upset. I felt more centered and grounded and my thoughts had become clearer and more organized. I noticed I did not mind answering the phone again at work -- quite an important factor, really. I could organize myself, my work, my family with a sense of calm. I realized I was better able to sequence time and events and plan forward without being anxious or stressed."
inTime is currently in a second study phase and is receiving international acclaim from the music cognition and neuroscience communities. Robin William was lost too soon. So, too, hopefully will be the gray areas that still cloud a clear understanding of how best to give hope to those whose lives are destroyed by depression.
More about Robin williams, Depression, inTime
 
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