We just crossed the World Suicide Prevention Day. How many of us know that psychological wellbeing is a critical part of overall health? It is a frequently ignored subject of conversation. This is owing to the taboo that has been attached with psychological disorders. Majority of us are unaware that mental issues are very normal and there is treatment to help manage and cure them. But in India, due to the lack of awareness and the taboo around it has increased the treatment gap. Also, it leads to less number of cases being reported. To solve this problem, technology can play a big role. In this article, we shall discuss all the aspects related to contribution of technology in curbing mental health issues.
Before Covid-19, India had the highest suicide rate in south-east Asia — now medical experts say the country's mental health system is being pushed to the limit. https://t.co/cS3cPvOAST
— CNN (@CNN) September 7, 2020
Present status of India’s mental health issues
As per a report, nearly 150 million Indians require mental health intervention and in higher spectrum cases, they deal with various disorders such as bipolar disorder, split personality, OCD, psychosis, and others. Here the interesting fact is that, while the disorders may vary from one another, the Internet access has made it easier for the patients themselves or their loved ones to distinguish the symptoms and care treatment. With the touch of a button one can get hold of as many resources and personal experiences on the web or their mobile applications.
However, the abundant information available on the Internet is not enough for an individual trying to differentiate between the signs and symptoms of a bipolar disorder or a split personality disorder, OCD or schizophrenia, and the like. Also, on the other hand, far less emotional wellbeing mobile applications exist contrasted with those dedicated to overall wellbeing. The shortage of qualified mental health professionals worsens the situation even more. According to mental health experts, the role of technology in making mental healthcare accessible virtual healthcare has been around for sometime now. It has been utilised in almost every aspect of the healthcare sector by now.
The impact of Covid-19 on mental health
A report highlights that the research conducted by the Suicide Prevention in India Foundation (SPIF) in May found that nearly 65% of 159 mental health professionals surveyed reported an increase in self-harm among their patients. More than 85% of therapists surveyed said they were experiencing caregiver fatigue, and over 75% said fatigue had impacted their work.
Another survey in April, by the Indian Psychiatric Society, showed that, of 1,685 participants, 40% were suffering from common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, due to the pandemic. The lockdown may have eased, but the situation isn’t improving.
Here are the 6 ways technology is helping us curb mental health illness in India and across the globe
1. Telepsychiartry and other tech modes
With the increasing concern towards mental illness in India, it is now important that the same is also extended to providing telehealth services for psychological disorders. Telepsychiatry is a latest way of treating mental health patients. It is an innovative use of telemedicine in the field of psychiatry and is poised to have a noteworthy impact on the care delivery and the method offers a range of services including psychological assessments, treatments (for individual, family, or even group), medication and patient engagement. A report says, telepsychiarty increases the capacity as well as reach of mental health professionals to give proper diagnosis and treatment utilising telecommunication tools such as video calling. Telepsychiatry empowers mental wellbeing experts to give primary care, consultation, and counselling. Most of us are aware that there are hundreds of mobile applications dedicated to mental health, with many centered around anxiety, depression, and substance misuse.
2. Mental wellbeing apps
Mental wellbeing apps allow those who are reluctant to look for in-person help to discover it in the safe space of their phones, even anonymously. Mobile apps additionally permit specialists and experts to screen progress and treatment adherence. These applications have incredible potential; however, there is almost no guideline monitoring the applications or for the extent of their adequacy. Several organisations are doing preliminary research on the usage of chatbots to decrease the measure of time patients spend on the paper-based polls at their GP. It can also help in tackling depression and anxiety issues remotely. This upgrades individuals’ encounters of care benefits as well as helps increase commitment to their own health. The chatbots are automated conversational agents which help to monitor the moods of their users and sometimes are even equipped with identifying the psychological triggers which may seem self-destructive.
Another report says, “Virtual healthcare in India is still in its formative stage as it requires extensive research and streamlining to offer proper care treatment. Mobile applications and telehealth services may come as additional resources for the patients to seek first-step help, but the mental health ecosystem still needs traditional therapy channels and human connection.” The role of virtual healthcare to treat mental health disorders has definitely widened during the Covid-19 period.
3. Online therapy
As we are seeing it all around us, these days online therapy is available to anyone and any time of the day, which is one of the significant advancements in the health industry. With the availability of many virtual and reliable therapy platforms, people will have easy access to therapists on any issue including relation counselling, career counselling and parenting on one click. This is a great development indeed.
4. Use of big data
With the availability of big data, mental health treatment software now have access to large chunks of data on user behaviour which will be very helpful in research and development of technological solutions of mental health treatment, therefore, the bottom line is the more people take help of the technology, the more they can access better data.
5. Help of VR (Virtual Reality)
There are people where their mental illness is related or connected to a particular fear or incident related to that activity. For example, fear of flying, fear of driving etc so here VR comes to the rescue and can be very useful by exposing people to what they fear in a virtual environment is a spectacular way of helping them overcome their fear and hence encourage better mental health.
Mental health experts highlight role of 'Gatekeepers' in suicide prevention https://t.co/cmShPLQnqn
— TOI India (@TOIIndiaNews) September 10, 2020
6. Support of social media
We can already see the massive impact of social media to bring awareness and importance of mental illness just as other diseases are Videos, Instagram features like reels, stories, Facebook group community, LinkedIn community etc are few of the various social media features which are widely used in a relatable manner to make people understand the types, triggers, importance and most importantly, the need to deal with their mental health issues. But at the same time it is also true that we have to use social media responsibly and not blindly follow whatever we come across on the virtual platforms. Checking facts, truth, reliability on certain items are mandatory.
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