New treatment for depression to be offered at 2 hospitals in Nova Scotia

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Two Nova Scotia hospitals will soon offer a new type of treatment for depression, PTSD and other mental health disorders.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, which involves sending short, magnetic pulses to the brain to stimulate nerve cells, will be offered at the Nova Scotia Hospital in Dartmouth and the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville.

"Anything that's going to impact positively is a huge benefit," said Dr. Michael Flynn, a psychiatrist at the Nova Scotia Hospital. "The key is it's now accessible. You can have the best treatment, but if you can't access it, it's not being optimized."

The QEII Foundation in Halifax said a donation of more than $400,000 from Bell's Let's Talk campaign allowed it to reach its goal of $759,000 to launch the new treatment program.

Submitted by the QEII Foundation
Submitted by the QEII Foundation

Unlike electroconvulsive therapy, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation does not require the use of general anesthesia or muscle relaxants.

During treatments, the patient sits in a customized recliner-style chair and remains awake. Magnetic pulses stimulate neurons and change the functioning of brain circuits, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

The centre's website says the treatment has been used in the past for neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, but is now considered a treatment option for major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and PTSD.

Patients can return to normal daily activities immediately following treatment. A typical treatment course is approximately four to six weeks, with treatment sessions ranging between five and 40 minutes, five days a week.

Contributed by the QEII Foundation
Contributed by the QEII Foundation

In the past, Susan Wood of Lunenburg County has paid out of pocket to receive repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation at a private clinic in Halifax — the only one offering the treatment in the province. Before then, she would travel to Toronto to undergo the procedure for depression.

Soon, she will be able to get the treatment at no cost in her home province.

"I'm very excited about that and I'm very excited for other people who will benefit from the treatment like I have," she said.

Wood said the treatments have had a tremendous impact on her life in a very positive way.

"I feel energetic, optimistic and hopeful with lots of enthusiasm for life," she said. "Following the treatments, I could really see a future for myself and didn't even have to try, it had such a profound effect."

The goal is for more of the machines to be spread throughout all regions of Nova Scotia.

"It gives us another tool in our toolbox to help people who are experiencing depression," said Rachel Boehm, director of the mental health and addictions program in the Nova Scotia Health Authority's central zone.

"We've been wanting it here in Nova Scotia, so this is a significant milestone for us to now be able to offer it."

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