Addressing the impact of kidney disease on mental health

10 Oct 2019

A pilot project that focuses on depression and anxiety in people with end-stage chronic kidney disease (CKD) has seen some promising results.  

Kidney Health Australia estimates that 1 in 3 Australians are at an increased risk of developing CKD, a severe and debilitating health problem. CKD patients are reported to experience high rates of comorbid depression and anxiety. Depression is associated with higher rates of mortality, hospitalisation, dialysis withdrawal and double the rate of kidney transplant rejection.

The Kidney Optimal Health Program (KOHP) is a targeted 8-session program that provides a framework for improving the psychosocial health of individuals living with CKD.

Mental health research coordinator, Zoe Jenkins said the rationale for the Kidney Optimal Health Program comes from knowing that depression and anxiety are highly prevalent in individuals with CKD, and these rates increase proportionately with the decline of renal function.

“KOHP is the first program of its kind in providing psychosocial support to patients with CKD in order to more effectively manage their illness, build skills to navigate the healthcare system.”

The Optimal Health Program was originally designed to support individuals with mental illness and has previously been trialled in patients with bipolar disorder and community mental health services. The program has been specifically adapted for patients living with CKD and the pilot study of KOHP indicated that program participants demonstrated improvements in symptoms of depression and anxiety and used fewer health services.

Program lead, Prof David Castle, Professor of Psychiatry at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne said living with a chronic health problem is always difficult, and often leads people feeling demoralised and disempowered.

“This program aims to build self-efficacy and enhance quality of life in people with chronic kidney disease.”

The program has received significant funding from the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health through the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Rapid Applied Research Translation program, the Victorian Government and Kidney Health Australia. This will see it expand to incorporate a larger number of participants, including patients in both rural and metropolitan areas.