New treatment for depression patients previously considered medication-resistant

Samantha Angaiak
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU, WTHR) - Twice as many Hoosiers die by suicide than homicide.

More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have depression or another diagnosed mental or substance abuse disorder, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

While there are multiple forms of treatment for depression, one Alaska doctor is using a non-invasive method for patients who are considered medication-resistant.

Dr. Cheryl Hodges treats patients at TMS Center of Alaska and uses two different machines for a method of treatment known as Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

"In a depressed person, the brain isn't firing appropriately. It's not active, it's not releasing adequate amounts of neurotransmitters, it's not utilizing glucose and oxygen, so with TMS we literally make the brain fire and we do that by introducing the magnetic energy," Dr. Hodges explained to NBC station KTUU.

The Neurostar and Brainsway FDA-approved machines use MRI-strength magnets to deliver pulsed magnetic fields to the area of the brain involved in depression.

"It's like sending your brain to the gym, in that we ask your brain to fire 40 times in four seconds or 36 times in two seconds," Dr. Hodges said.

Rebeka Edge who has gone for TMS treatments more than 16 times said she's noticing a difference.

"I feel like I am not just exhausted and sad all the time, that's really a big thing being just sad all of the time, I'm not like that right now even when some crisis comes up I feel like I can think about it rationally and talk about it," Edge said.

Other patients like Charles Middleton said the treatments have helped him stay away from some of his darkest thoughts.

"I'm not irritable I don't think about suicide like I used to, it passes, but it's not a continuous thought all the time," Middleton said.

Dr. Hodges said her offices have seen a 60- to 70 percent remission rate for her patients and the method doesn't present systemic side effects the same way medications do.

"Side effects are the main reason that patients discontinue their treatment," Dr. Hodges said.

According to TMS Center of Alaska's website, TMS therapy may not be for everyone and the center said there is a small risk of seizures.

Have Hope

One in five Indiana youth have contemplated suicide. If you or someone you know is one of them, find help and support by clicking here.

WTHR has partnered with Community Health Network for our "Have Hope" initiative, promoting awareness and prevention of suicide in Indiana. Find resources from how to start a conversation with a depressed or suicidal person in your life, to how teachers can spot signs of depression and suicidal thoughts in their students, by clicking here.

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