Technology’s Role in Mental Health
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four people live with a mental health condition; yet, fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children diagnosed receive treatment every year. With ever-expanding technology and a significant portion of the population needing care, exciting new ways to reach those who need help continue to emerge. While there are risks and benefits to each that must be carefully weighed, here are a few of the latest trends and tools dedicated to helping those with mental health needs:
- Online therapy: While telepsychology has been around for quite some time, Medicaid and Medicare has been slow to adopt its widespread use. However, more and more studies have shown the benefits of online therapy, and it continues to gain traction. The American Psychological Association issued guidelines for the use of telepsychology. Some sites dedicated to online practice includes: Breakthrough, E-Mental Health Center, and Talkspace. Some insurance companies also offer their own version of telepsychology services.
- Online mental health communities: Online forums exist to help and support individuals and their families who struggle with mental illness. For example, Big White Wall, originally established in the United Kingdom, recently launched in the United States as well. It’s a 24-hour digital service that provides safe and anonymous clinically-facilitated peer support through an online community. ValueOptions Maryland, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, and Mosaic have all established partnerships with Big White Wall already.
- Mobile apps: With the widespread use of smartphones, virtual treatment for mental health has expanded to include several apps. CrossCheck is an app that uses sensors to create a profile of a patient’s behavioral and social patterns to raise alerts when the person deviates from the norm. The app is currently being used as part of a National Institutes of Mental Health-funded study for monitoring and relapse prevention in schizophrenia. There are also multiple apps to choose from for those who suffer from anxiety. Equanimity is a meditation time and tracker. The National Center for Health and Technology developed Breathe2Relax as a portable stress management tool.
While technology can offer more convenient and accessible methods for addressing a person’s mental health needs, there is still debate on striking the right balance of technology and person-to-person interaction. We want to know your thoughts. As a provider, a health plan, or as a person who has used this applications – what do you think about the role of technology in mental health care?