As mental health problems rise globally, so does the technology to treat them. Technology helps people with mental illness and mental health care professionals in many ways. It has made available tons of specialized information and support for almost every
mental health issue in existence. Through the Internet, anyone wishing to find out more about mental health problems but wanting to remain private can do so. The rapidly-evolving medical industry is relying more on more on technology to assist in the diagnosis, treatment, management, prevention, and monitoring of mental illness. Governments and institutions recognize these facts and are now funding the latest technologies to treat mental health issues.
Why Technology is Important
Technology is influencing the way we view mental health problems. Through the Internet, it has allowed people suffering from mental illnesses to speak about their experiences and connect with others with similar conditions. Technology acts as a channel of communication that allows us to start a discussion and exchange ideas about mental health issues, thereby breaking down social stigmas and giving people the confidence to seek help. Through technology, information, and connectivity are made available to those who can’t leave their homes, those who can’t afford professional care, those who live in places where they have no access to mental health workers, and those who suffer from mental health issues that make them too anxious or stressed to interact with people face-to-face.
Using the Latest Technology in the Treatment of Mental Illness
Technology such as telephone and video conferencing are invaluable to mental health workers trying to reach patients in places without psychiatric services. The Internet provides information, facilitates community, and inspires patients to get further treatment. E-mail can act as an alternative to face-to-face encounters and enables mental health care providers to reach and help more patients.
Apart from e-mail, the Internet, video conferencing, and the telephone, there are a number of new tools emerging to help professionals provide better care for people with mental health issues.
Smartphones and apps allow people free and fast access to information and advice on mental illness anywhere and at any time of the day. Through a smartphone, people can look up the symptoms of certain mental health issues, track changes in their mental health, and even seek advice from apps that function as a therapist.
Mental Illness in a High Tec Era….
Mental health apps such as DepressionQuest, Mobilyze, and PTSD Coach help those struggling with mental health issues to stick to treatment regimens, sharpen their cognitive functions, experience good thought patterns, manage their stress levels, identify situations that can trigger depression, and reach crisis hotlines.
Virtual reality exposure therapy uses Virtual Reality to treat PTSD and phobias such as the fear of flying. This treatment method offers a sense of realism that allows patients to confront their issues in a safe environment. Virtual Reality has also been used in therapy for adolescents.
Assistive technology, digital reminders, mp3 players, electronic planners, and soothers (such as sound machines used to calm people down) are also beneficial to those suffering from mental health issues. Lastly, technology is revolutionizing the way we understand mental health and its treatment. Because of the rapid advancement of technology and the many discoveries made by scientists every day, the assessment and treatment of mental health issues is continually improving.
How Governments Fund the Latest Technology for Mental Health Issues
In the UK, the government spent £1.9 million in 2013 on new handheld computers to improve mental health services for children. The tablet computers are used to monitor treatment outcomes and to modify treatments to meet each child’s specific needs. It is believed that tracking treatment progress and allowing the patients to monitor how close they are to reaching their treatment goals will help improve recovery rates in young people with mental health issues.
In 2012, the US Department of Veterans Affairs provided 200,000 video conferencing consultations or telemental health to veterans all over the country. These remote visits were aimed at improving access to mental health care and lowering the suicide rate among veterans. The Veterans Affairs’ videoconferencing program is also used to manage medication and conduct suicide prevention evaluations.
The City of Philadelphia offers a web-based application to conduct behavioral therapy and provide assessment tools online. The website Healthy Minds Philly, which is funded by the City of Philadelphia and supported by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, provides Mental Health First Aid and behavioral health screenings, and offers community members free Mental Health First Aid training.
Why Technology Can’t Replace the Personal Touch of Psychologists
While there are many advantages to the use of technology in assessing, diagnosing, managing, and providing information and support on mental health issues, there are certain areas where technology is no match for traditional methods. For example, in most mental health cases, the most effective treatment is one-on-one counseling. For this important and irreplaceable method to work, developing a working relationship with the therapist is crucial.
Often, being able to build trust with a competent, professional therapist is the first step to a patient-doctor relationship. But building trust is hard to do when there is no actual face-to-face meeting. In this sense, digital cannot replace human interaction. It is hard to maintain a fulfilling, long-term treatment plan with apps or people you can only interact with through a screen.
Perhaps the role of technology in the treatment of mental illness is to encourage people to seek further knowledge and guidance by getting in contact with professionals. The Internet is a great tool for educating and updating people on mental health issues and for emboldening them to share their experiences and to work toward getting well.
People struggling with a mental illness, especially the elderly and those with severe mental issues, who otherwise might not seek the help of a professional, can read about the experiences of others like them and find the courage to get help as well. It also allows them to easily find qualified mental health professionals in their area, as well as research supplementary or alternative healing methods if mental health services are not available.