BraveHeart – treating depression in heart disease patients (Case Study)

Nov 26 2012

Coronary heart disease and depression are the largest contributors to the burden of disease in Australia. One in five heart attack survivors will go on to develop depression, which conversely increases their risks of having another heart attack.

BraveHeart is the first step in providing evidence that this model of treatment is effective and may lead to the introduction of routine screening for depression and anxiety in existing cardiac services.

Ken Jones knows how important the research funded by HMRI was to his recovery.

Having survived a massive heart attack, Ken was grateful to be alive. However, when he returned home following his cardiac rehabilitation, he began experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression.

It was thanks to the BraveHeart research trial, that Ken learned to “turn negatives into positives” and is now determined to make the most of life.

The BraveHeart pilot study involved patients at John Hunter Hospital who were experiencing significant symptoms of depression or anxiety at the end of cardiac rehabilitation.

During the six week program participants were taught how to monitor moods, solve problems, and monitor and challenge negative thoughts.

The study was conducted by John Hambridge from Hunter New England Health and Dr Alyna Turner and Professor Amanda Baker from the University of Newcastle.

“Our initial screening of cardiac rehabilitation patient’s suggested that a high number were experiencing ongoing distress after their heart problems. We wanted to offer patients an intervention that helps them deal with this distress, particularly symptoms of depression,” said Dr Turner.

Results of the BraveHeart study showed cardiac patients experienced a significant reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms after participating in group therapy.

Ken Jones enrolled in the BraveHeart study after encouragement from his rehabilitation nurse. If it was not for the research trial, his feelings of anxiety and depression may have gone untreated and had serious effects for his quality of life. It may have cost him his life.

“I believe the group therapy offered by BraveHeart was a turning point in my life, because they taught me how to turn negatives into positives and to stop worrying about things that weren’t worth worrying about.”

“I always thought depression was a cop out, but that was before it happened to me. Like anyone I still have my share of down days, but with what I’ve learned from BraveHeart, I handle them mainly with positive thoughts.”

“These days, I like to think about the things I have rather than those things I have lost or things that might happen down the track.”

“I am grateful for every day I have and I believe I am getting the most out of them.”