According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 16.2 million U.S. adults – 6.7 percent of the adult population – experienced major depressive episodes in 2016. And a four-year clinical trial of veterans revealed that 20% of them fail to respond to traditional treatments, such as medicine and psychotherapy. But new technologies are bringing new hope to those patients, and VA is leading the charge.
Since Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) was cleared by the FDA in 2008, about 30 VA veteran centers throughout the country have been using TMS machines to treat patients suffering from various mental health problems – such as depression, anxiety, and even PTSD – and finding success where pharmaceuticals have not. TMS ‘helmets’ fire electromagnetic pulses into a patient’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, stimulating and activating nerve cells in the cerebral cortex that regulate mood and motivation. The treatments are non-invasive, the short-term side effects are minimal (slight scalp discomfort and headaches), and while data on their effectiveness still vary, estimates suggest that 40% of patients receiving TMS go into remission, compared to 5% of those that don’t.
“You’ll do anything that you can to help your fellow soldier,” says Dr. Mark George of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C. “And a lot of veterans who participate in this trial and other research still have that credo.”
Mental health care is always a top priority at VA, which is why we invest early and heavily in research and new technologies that might prove effective in helping our Nation’s heroes. But we also need the best doctors, nurses, and technicians to help see these programs through.
To learn more about mental health careers or search openings with VA, please visit our careers page.
Read more about VA and TMS trials.