Helmet approved by FDA to treat depression available in Arizona
GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – More than 15 million American adults suffer from depression each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bre Hushaw was one of those statistics.
The 21-year-old is from Chandler and is getting ready to graduate at Northern Arizona University’s Flagstaff campus in May with a degree in marketing.
However, it almost didn’t happen.
“I really couldn’t get out of my room. I couldn’t eat,” she said. “Even though I was gaining weight from my meds, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t breathe. I felt like the world was on me and I was thinking about suicide every single day.”
Looking at the bubbly college student today, you’d never know she suffered from depression or anxiety.
Hushaw said her mental health issues started when she was 10 years old when her mom died.
“What really caused my anxiety and depression was losing Mom,” she said. “I lost her to cancer. It was really traumatic.”
Hushaw brought that with her to college where she experienced even more trauma.
Back in 2015, she was a freshman at NAU living in the Greek Life dorms. She and her roommate woke up to gunshots.
“My roommate was crying and everybody down the hall was completely a mess running down the halls freaking out,” she said.
Some of her friends had witnessed the shooting.
“After that, I ended up seeking treatment for depression,” she said.
However, therapy services were booked out for months.
“I felt hopeless after everything thing on campus. I felt like nothing was going to get better,” she said.
“I went on 14 different anti-depressants. I tried so many,” she added. “I had side effects of nausea. I gained 40 pounds. I had hair loss. I couldn’t get out of bed.”
One of her friends also committed suicide. She wanted to share her story with hopes it helps others who are going through tough times.
Last summer, Hushaw heard of a unique drug-free treatment called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS.
The medical device is also known as a “depression helmet” which resembles a hair salon dryer chair with chin straps.
“TMS is like rebooting the brain,” explained psychiatrist Dr. Teejay Tripp of Serenity Mental Health Centers.
He said the treatment is another alternative for people who don’t respond to anti-depressants or other therapies.
“Insurance does cover TMS and we will work with your insurance to get it approved,” he said.
“There’s no structural change, but it does change how the nerves work with itself,” said Dr. Tripp. “It’s like rebooting the brain. It’s a direct way of stimulating the brain (with magnetic pulses) and releasing chemicals.”
TMS is an FDA-approved treatment for depression. It also recently has been FDA approved to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“It doesn’t hurt,” she said. “It feels like a pencil tap.”
Hushaw went to Serenity Mental Health Centers‘ Gilbert location for her Brainway’s Deep TMS treatment.
She went for 20-minute sessions, five days a week, for six weeks.
“I felt like there was a huge blanket that was lifted off my shoulders and I felt completely free,” explained Hushaw. “I didn’t have thoughts of depression or suicide. It was like a light had been turned on again.”