Milford practice specializes in treatment-resistant depression

MILFORD — Dr. Lisa Harding stands on the front lines with those battling mental health issues.

The Milford resident opened Depression MD in June 2020 — right after the start of the pandemic — but kept her doors open, noting that this move was imperative for those people suffering from depression and other mental health issues during a time dominated by isolation and lockdowns.

“What we did in the height of the pandemic before there was no vaccine is we would see patients 20 minutes apart,” said Harding, who hosted a long-awaited grand opening celebration this past week at her 472 Wheelers Farm Road office. “So this office never shut down, and we were servicing Milford the entire time.”

Depression MD was one of the few psychiatric practices that remained open during the early months of the pandemic. She said, because of that, during that time she received numerous referrals.

“Our office was one of the first medical practices to be vaccinated in Milford because we kept open,” she said. “A lot of people were doing telemedicine, but we were here.”

Harding said she chose Milford because there was a need for experts in the field of depression.

“Yale has a lot of campuses around, and one thing I wanted to ensure was that I was placing myself in a location that made me accessible,” she said.

Harding moved to Milford in 2019 and immediately felt at home.

“I loved the ability to walk around and go into shops, I love the Milford Green and love to be able to walk from the beach because I’m originally from St. Lucia,” she said. “There are little spots in Milford that are reminiscent of home.”

As an expert in treatment resistance to depression, Harding didn’t want to open a practice in a place where there would be an oversaturation of depression assistance.

“I have extra training, more than psychiatry, to treat a specific thing,” she said. “Even when there are a lot of psychiatrists in an area, it’s helpful because they don’t have my expertise and the closest psychiatrist that does what I do is probably in Windsor.”

But being an expert in treatment-resistant depression makes Depression MD a unique type of psychiatric office.

“I’m the psychiatrist that people see after they have not responded to medication,” said Harding, adding that at times people suffering through mental health issues are not feeling better with prescribed medication. “I am the specialist that those psychiatrists, or psychiatric nurse practitioners and other mental health practitioners refer to.”

At Depression MD, Harding does intravenous ketamine, esketamine and transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.

Ketamine is a disassociative anesthetic drug given in lower doses meaning the dose doesn’t put the patient to sleep, explained Harding.

“The IV form is used off label to treat depression, and the esketamine or Spravato is FDA approved to treat depression,” she said.

Spravato, a brand name, is given to patients through a nasal spray device.

“Any patient who doesn’t respond to two or more anti-depressants is eligible for these treatments,” she said. “For TMS, patients that can’t tolerate medications are eligible for the treatment.”

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is not electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, which is done under anesthesia in a hospital, stated Harding. She said the TMS machine gives patients a “pulse” to the temples.

“Most patients describe they feel more alert, and awake, and it calms their anxiety,” she said. “TMS is done five days a week for four to six weeks, and the treatment lasts between three minutes to 17 minutes depending on what they are being treated for.”

According to Harding, there are still many people seeking mental health assistance.

“Before in mental health services, you get a slowing down of people getting sick and not a lot of people get a relapse of their depression or come in for suicidal thoughts and behaviors during the summer,” said Harding.

“Post-pandemic what we are noticing (is) an uptick of mental health services now in the summer,” added Harding.

For Harding, the treatments she does are only just one piece of the puzzle to dealing with depression and anxiety.

“Understanding your journey in mental health and where treatments fit in is the path of getting better,” she said. “Diet, exercise, family connections all of those things are the pillars by which we figure out how to make a person better. Because what we want is to be happy, and so what that looks like for every single patient different.

“So what makes this practice different, is we don’t have a one size fits all, we tailor the treatment for each patient, and I think that’s the important takeaway,” added Harding.