Laura T. Safar, MD: Carefully Addressing Mental Health in MS


The director of MS neuropsychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital spoke of the importance of not oversimplifying the approach to mental health disorders in individuals with MS, and how the collaborative care model can help.­­­

"The most important take-home message is to not over-simplify. Not to think that when an individual with MS that has depression, that this is just a vanilla major depressive disorder and to just write a prescription for an SSRI. It takes more time and effort from the clinician. It takes the involvement of other team members."

One of the themes at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC), May 28-June 1, in Seattle, Washington, was the use of collaborative care when managing patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). In addition to the challenges that MS presents these patients, they also tend to be comorbid, with depression and mental health issues often arising. In these instances, the collaborative care model can be very useful in helping to address the hurdles patients with MS must overcome.

Additionally, there are hurdles for health care providers as well. As Laura T. Safar, MD, assistant professor, psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and director, MS neuropsychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, pointed out in a conversation with NeurologyLive®, this comorbidity can lead to additional understanding of the pharmacologic interactions between the different medicines patients may be administered.

Safar shared her insight into the treatment of mental health conditions with these patients, and how a patient with a disease as complex as MS cannot be approached in a “vanilla” manner, as she put it. The use of collaborative care models, and additional time and effort, she said, can help prevent the oversimplification of prescribing patients a drug that may, in turn, worsen their condition.

For more coverage of CMSC 2019, click here.


Safar LT. Can the Collaborative Care Model Address the Mental Health Needs of Individuals with MS? Challenges and Opportunities. Presented at: CMSC 2019; May 28 to June 1, 2019; Seattle, Washington.

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