Group therapy for depression in a BraveHeart

Apr 8 2010

Member for Wallsend, Sonia Hornery today welcomed the results of a pilot study conducted by Hunter researchers which shows that coronary heart disease patients who feel depressed or anxious can benefit from group therapy.

Results of the ‘BraveHeart’ study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, showed cardiac patients experienced a significant reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms after participating in group therapy.

Ms Hornery said the research would go a long way to improving the health and wellbeing of cardiac patients.

“During the six week program patients were taught how to monitor moods, solve problems, and monitor and challenge negative thoughts,” said Ms Hornery.

“Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of premature death and disability in Australia so the tools and techniques learned in group therapy will be of vital importance to patients undergoing rehabilitation.

“Cardiac patients participating in BraveHeart group therapy benefited from being around people who were experiencing similar challenges.”

“It is pleasing to see this research come out of the Hunter Medical Research Institute, recognised in NSW as a place of excellence for public health research.”

The study was conducted by Mr John Hambridge, a Senior Clinical Psychologist from Hunter New England Health, and Dr Alyna Turner and Professor Amanda Baker from the University of Newcastle. They are members of the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s (HMRI) Brain and Mental Health Research Program and the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health Research.

“It is known that depression increases the risk of heart disease, and of further heart problems. But screening for depression and offering treatment is not yet a routine clinical practice for cardiac patients,” said Mr Hambridge.

“Results of our pilot study are promising and suggest that the BraveHeart therapy may be an effective and economical way of treating depression and anxiety in cardiac patients.  If these results are supported in future trials it could be adopted by other Australian and overseas hospitals.”

The pilot study involved 39 patients at John Hunter Hospital, New South Wales, who were experiencing significant symptoms of depression or anxiety at the end of cardiac rehabilitation.

“Our initial screening of cardiac rehabilitation patients 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 Alyna Turner, an HMRI Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle.

HMRI Director Professor Maree Gleeson said this discovery was made possible because of a grant from HMRI’s Life Governor Jennie Thomas.

“The donation from Jennie Thomas was made in the hope that this research would improve the lives of other families who have been affected by depression associated with heart disease. We are now seeing Jennie’s support come to life,” said Professor Gleeson.

HMRI is a partnership between Hunter New England Health, the University of Newcastle and the community.

Media opportunity: Thursday 8th April, 2010

Lead researchers, a Braveheart study participant and Sonia Hornery are available for interviews and photo/vision. Meet in the Royal Newcastle Centre foyer at 10.15.