In Europe, one in every two individuals suffer from mental illness. 17% youngsters between 6 to 17 years of age are experiencing a mental health disorder. The prevalence of mental disorders is high in Asia Pacific too. Brain is a beautiful and mysterious organ of a human body. If applied in the right direction, it can do wonders. If used wrongly, it can make one’s life miserable. There is a ripple effect of mental illness.
It can deeply impact the person’s life – Such patients have an increased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes and others.
It affects the well-being of families – Around 8.4 million people provide care to the person suffering from mental illness in the U.S.
Impact on community – around 70% of youth in the judiciary system for juveniles suffer from at least one mental health condition.
As per research studies, depression is one of the most-leading causes for disability across the world.
More than mental illness, it is the stigmatization that persists in the world. People are still not fully aware of mental disorders and carry a negative attitude towards the ones who care for mentally-challenged.
Although pharmaceutical industry has been playing a crucial role in eradicating this illness by introducing different therapies and drugs. However, the question is how much has pharma contributed to it so far? Has pharma been able to defuse the bomb of mental illness?
Access is the main point of concern for patients suffering from mental illness. In Sweden, patients didn’t have access to mental health services. This compelled companies to introduce a digital psychology service, allowing patients to video call their psychologists and seek quality care. The treatment will be same, but patients can choose their own environment and surroundings to seek help.
With digital health growing by leaps and bounds, players across the world are investing into digital health, thereby promising patients to offer quality, flexible, cost-effective, and quick access to quality care.
Let’s try to understand how digital health can intervene in mental health.
Mental Health Bonds with Digital Health
Several factors have created a weak framework of treatment for mental health. Some of these include poor infrastructure, stigma, highly-priced treatment among others. There are people with severe mental illness, but aren’t receiving proper treatment. With the advent of digitalized healthcare, you can get quick treatment from the palm of your hand. Digital technology has really transformed our lives and has truly improved our personal experience in terms of receiving quality care. When we can imagine summoning a cab or a restaurant delivery boy, directly at our doorsteps through an app, then why not a physiatrist?
Convenience, affordability, accessibility: these are the three main aspects of mental health services. Listing out some of its primary benefits:
- Access to people sitting in rural areas, who otherwise might not be able to consult a shrink
- Stigmatization ‘reduces to silence’
- Bringing care to where patient is located
- No more delays or wait time
- Bridges the gap of transportation
- No visit to Triage rooms
Now, the irony of this service is that there are people who enjoy talking to a screen and explaining them their problem. While, there are some people who might find it weird or absurd to do the same. Nonetheless, this is going to be less of a problem as people are becoming well-versed with smartphones and more comfortable with video calling.
As telepsychiatry is becoming popular among the population, mental health institution called ‘Blue Mountain Counselling’ launched this service in their treatment protocol in the month of January this year. One of the well-known telehealth provider called MeMD announced the launch of telepsychiatry solutions in January 2020. The aim of this launch is to deliver quality and convenient care to people suffering from mental illness.
Telepsychiatry has overall increased the patient participation for online healthcare appointments. Both the patients and healthcare care providers enjoy this service as digital health offers an unprecedented level of convenience to both the parties.
The Choice is Digital Health – (a) No-brainer!
One more fascinating update in the mental health space is the addition of Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s initiative to their philanthropic work. We might not know the reason on why they stepped back from their roles, but we know that they are very much committed to their patronages. They recently took part in a campaign called ‘#BellLetsTalkDay’, that highlights on awareness about mental health. This campaign is a Canadian mental health initiative and aims to make people aware of mental sickness.
Be it mental health or any other healthcare problem, healthcare providers will continue to focus on well-being and prevention of people including children. Recently, around 20 children were killed in the school in California on the 7th anniversary of Sandy Hook. The aftermath of this incident was so horrendous that it left a deep impact on students’ mental health. To overcome this, companies such as Betterhelp, 7cups, and Talkspace are developing innovative models that can directly link students with therapists and mental health professionals. These are self-guided apps and have proved to be effective in reducing the symptoms of depression.
For people, who are facing mental health issues and don’t want to wait in long ques for appointments, digital health is a no-brainer for them. Healthcare providers are now planning to offer a balance between human touch and technology by developing technologies that can work on any device. Though, digital health is cost-effective and well-structured, but the start-up cost of establishing clinics with high-tech technologies is a hindrance. Be it as it may be, increasing investments by companies into mental health services and rising preference towards home treatment among people will develop the digital health in the next few years. This, coupled with the rising support from governments, will help the digital health market to move forward. Technologies such as genomics, telemedicine, natural language processing, neuroimaging, and others are going to change our understanding of mental health and the stigma around it.