Grant funds study of vitamin D and mental illness

YKHC has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation to study the possible correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mental illness, including depression and suicide.

The grant funds 600 individual vitamin D tests to be conducted primarily on patients admitted to YKDRH under Title 47 (mental health hold), as well as office remodeling for a Behavioral Health case manager at the hospital and research and consulting services.

According to the grant application and YKHC Behavioral Health Services, “Alaska’s overall suicide rate is twice the national average and Alaska Natives continue to account for an even more disproportionate number. YKHC is interested in studying vitamin D deficiency in our mental health population and its associations, as to whether vitamin D deficiency is a mediator of illness severity, a result of illness severity, or both.”

A recent report presented at the American Psychiatric Association’s 2011 Annual Meeting indicated that children with severe mental health disorders, including psychosis, have twice the rate of vitamin D insufficiency as mentally healthy children. Receptors for Vitamin D exist in the brain, suggesting an important role for vitamin D in brain function. Low levels of vitamin D are associated not only with depression, but also with seasonal affective disorder.

The study begins this month and continues until Nov. 30, 2013. A final report will be submitted in January, 2014.

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