Every year on October 10, people from around the world come together with the same goals in mind: de-stigmatizing mental health. With World Mental Health Day being a few weeks ago, we take a look at the effects of this day on treatment options.
Whilst there will likely always be work to be done when it comes to mental health, there are more options than ever before. And along with the tireless efforts of mental health professionals, technological advancements have played a huge role in recent years in pushing boundaries when treating mental health problems.
From diagnosing mental health issues, to finding local treatment options and support groups, the internet allows us to deal with mental health issues in a completely new way. With smartphone technology, new methods such as online therapy are becoming more common.
According to the American Psychological Association, some studies indicate that "telemental health" and "asynchronous messaging therapy" can, in cases, "be as effective as in-person therapy". Whilst other studies have shown online therapy often proves useful as a first step for those who are reluctant to get help and can lead to patients seeking out more intensive mental health care methods.
Services such as iCounselor bills itself as the "future of counselling". With it's counsellors available via phone, chat, text and video conferencing and costs just 0.99 cents just to start. With 24 hours of support and no need to set up an appointment it's difficult to see how traditional healthcare methods will compete.
So what are the negatives? Here's a list of a few concerns to look out for going forward:
- Effectiveness: The biggest concern with technological interventions is obtaining scientific evidence that they work and that they work as well as traditional methods.
- For whom and for what: Another concern is understanding if apps work for all people and for all mental health conditions.
- Guidance: There are no industry-wide standards to help consumers know if an app or other mobile technology is proven effective.
- Privacy: Apps deal with very sensitive personal information so app makers need to be able to guarantee privacy for app users.
- Regulation: The question of who will or should regulate mental health technology and the data it generates needs to be answered.
- Overselling: There is some concern that if an app or program promises more than it delivers, consumers may turn away from other, more effective therapies.
The Fisher Wallace Stimulator
Mental illnesses affect 1 in 5 and most of us at some point during our lifetimes as mentioned every year around World Mental Health day. However, people who suffer from problems like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often have trouble getting relief with few options for treatment available. Nearly 50% of people with PTSD do not receive treatment which affects the patients ability to deal with everyday activities and stressful situations.
The Fischer Wallace Stimulator is a wearable headband which is used to treat depression and PTSD. The headband uses electric currents to stimulate the brain which helps improve symptoms of depression, particularly those who do not want to take medication.
Getting to the doctor when you're sick in a rural area is something everyone living in a rural area complains about. There are several technologies aimed at solving the rural issue we looked at earlier in the year. Since then we've seen Telemedicine (similar to online therapy) make the biggest headlines.
Telemedicine aims to overcome these problems through offering patients services over live video, email, phone and wireless tools. Using these tools, as discussed here, can go further than solving the rural problem, with reduced travel times and heathcare servicing costs. So benefits for both professional and patients alike, great right? Well that's not all. 75.2% of nurses agree that telemedicine makes their jobs easier with only 16% of patients going to ER for minor issues if they were able to use telemedicine instead. Of course, some illnesses require in-person examination and always will and so this is not a one-size-fits-all answer...but then nothing is. What it does do is allow patients to get an immediate diagnosis whilst saving costs for everyone involved - patients & healthcare staff.
Wearable trackers often hook-up to mobile apps, unless it's the *** we previously spoke about. However, making it easy for patients to report data to doctors is a use we haven't seen in practice as yet. Customizing goals and lifestyle choices by healthcare professionals is the direction this technology is going into, piggybacking the global trend towards healthier living. Sharing this info is a current bottleneck we've discussed extensively but this is changing fast. So what are the technologies available right now and what do they do?
- Fitbit—The most well-known fitness wearable; different versions track steps, allow competition with friends, and keep users in sync with step goals.
- Garmin—Garmin offers different devices to suit individual needs, from basic activity trackers to high-tech smart watches.
- Runtastic—A health and fitness partner, some fitness watch options can even be worn in the water while tracking activity!