Cindy Elkins with her daughter Chase in a banquet hall

Cindy Elkins is a champion of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)—and SAINT™ treatment specifically—as a treatment for major depression that should be widely available.

Her ardent desire and passion stem from her own experience as a parent watching her daughter spiral into major depression.

“Chase’s depression was pretty all-consuming and took her from us for a bit. It was a completely foreign place for all of us. We felt helpless. We felt frustrated. We couldn’t believe that this invisible illness had just hijacked Chase,” Cindy recalls. “The more I learned about depression, the more my partner and I had to realize that who we were speaking to was the depression, and every now and then, we would see Chase again. It was the hardest thing we’ve been through in our lives, bar none.”

It was a precarious time, Cindy recalls, because youth mental health was declining rapidly during the pandemic, and it was hard to access mental health professionals. According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic triggered a 25 percent increase in the prevalence of depression and anxiety worldwide.1

Cindy organized a team of healthcare professionals—dubbed “Team Chase,” to oversee her daughter’s care. “We’re sporty, team people. That's how I, my partner, and our girls grew up—we realized the power of a team is so much greater than what an individual can do,” Cindy explains. She also wanted to assemble an “all-star” team to tackle Chase’s health issues. “I knew that if I could find the best, I could help us work together better. I sent weekly status updates to Team Chase. And her healthcare providers were super responsive. They liked working together and having that more frequent communication outside of the clinic because there were so many aspects to Chase’s journey.”

Cindy learned about SAINT through her research. She read the initial clinical trial and then shared it with her family, including Chase. Ultimately, Chase decided for herself to try the treatment. It was a decision her parents felt was Chase’s to make because it’s her brain, and she was the one who would be impacted directly by the treatment. “If she had declined it, I would’ve advocated pretty hard for it. But she’s very analytical, and I knew that if she could read the results from the double-blinded randomized controlled trial, it would speak for itself,” says Cindy.

Chase’s response to the SAINT treatment was quicker than her family expected and could have dreamed of. “We kept seeing parts of Chase come back to us a little bit at a time.” In a story featured on the Today Show, Chase’s twin sister Christel had remarked that after the treatment, she saw her sister again.2

Cindy Elkins with her family at a golf course

Parents, family members, and friends struggle alongside their loved ones who struggle with depression. Often, they don’t know how to help, nor are they aware of all the treatment options available - either FDA-approved or in trials. Cindy's professional background helped her to research and find resources, but she admits that she, too, learned a lot through the experience. She shares how family-based therapy proved to be enlightening. “Chase had an outstanding therapist who was able to work with our family in a really important way, and she also worked a lot with me,” she says. As a natural fighter, leader and organizer, Cindy initially thought she could help Chase through her depression by working harder. “I needed to change, and I thought all my life skills would make this better, but it turns out I needed new skills.” The change, she acknowledges, was to surrender what wasn’t serving her and not give up, but to let go. Cindy and Chase are both passionate about sharing their story. “Everybody’s got to talk about this out loud to everyone they know. Back in the day, nobody would’ve shared anything inside their family, much less outside of their family. Chase is amazing at sharing her story. And I’m sharing the story as well,” says Cindy. “As parents, we’ve got to be more aware of what our kids are going through. As helpless as I felt, I knew Chase being in her room all day sleeping was not normal. Whether your kids are talking to you or not, pay attention.”

Both Chase and Cindy participated in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) open comment period about SAINT because they want this treatment to be accessible to everyone who needs it. Cindy is on the Board of the Foundation for the Clinical Advancement of TMS, and Chase joins her on the FACTMS Patient Advocacy Group along with other patients and TMS leaders. “I’m thrilled that SAINT is getting a spotlight,” she says. “Chase and I believe, given all of the time spent trying antidepressants that can have terrible side effects, Why Not TMS - it’s fast, very minimal side effects and the relief from depression is lasting.”