According to McKinsey, more than 50% of the population in middle and high income countries is likely to suffer from a mental health condition during their lifetime. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of employees globally. Approximately 42% of employees have reported experiencing a decline in mental health since the pandemic began. A recent report by Future Care Capital (FCC) recommends that the UK government invest in the digitization of mental healthcare services for both citizens and health care workers. The report titled, 'The Mental Health Tech Landscape Review', describes how technology can be used to provide higher quality care when it comes to mental health.
Recently Greenbay quarterback Aaron Rodgers made headlines when he spoke about mental health before taking on Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson in a round of gold for 'The Match'. In a press interview, Rodgers said "This offseason I’ve spent a lot of time working on myself. I think for a long time mental health has been only an ‘okay topic’ to broach if you’re talking about dealing with bouts of depression, suicide, like big issue topics with mental health. There’s been some weird stigma about it. I think there’s been some athletes who have spoken out about those things and got the support they deserve, but there’s not a lot of conversation around the idea of having a very positive mental health state. I think there’s a lot to it—that I’ve learned—that I’ve focused on the offseason about how to take care of myself. The total package, not just my physical self, the workouts, but my spiritual self with my own mindful practices. My mental health as well."
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As Rodgers points out, the conversation around mental health has evolved over the past decade. the stigma around mental wellbeing and health has reduced. The role of technology in mental health has also changed with time. In this article, we explore 3 ways in which technology is helping improve mental health and wellbeing.
3 Ways Tech is Improving Mental Health
1. Virtual Reality as a Tool for Therapy
The cost of virtual reality hardware has reduced significantly over the past couple of years as the hardware required to run these headsets has become more mainstream. As 5G network infrastructure continues to grow, the latency issues that some VR technology faces will also reduce. As time goes on, VR technology is becoming more accessible for everyday users. One way in which VR is being used is to treat anxiety, stress, and even PTSD. VR can be helpful for children with ADHD. In June 2020, the FDA in the United States approved the prescription video game EndeavourRX that is designed to help children between the ages of 8 and 12 who have ADHD. The game challenges the patients to focus on multiple tasks at the same time within the game environment. People with autism can use VR technology to practice navigating stressful social situations like interviews.
SoundSelf is a company that provides technodelic experiences. Technodelics combine the disciplines of hypnosis, ceremony, meditation, and neuroscience to create immersive and therapeutic videogames. SoundSelf utilizes the users' voice to create an immersive experience of light, sound, and color. The experiences work without a VR headset as well but VR technology makes the experiences more immersive. Those interested can use SoundSelf with Quest, OpenVR, Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets. Healium is another company that provides VR experiences to help users meditate and improve their mental wellbeing. Users can use Oculus Go, Quest, Quest 2, and Pico headsets. The company has various subscription packages that users can choose from. They also have a package for businesses and companies.
2. Mobile Applications to Support Mental Health
There are over 20,000 apps for mental health available through the Google and Apple app stores. Mobile applications have made mental health support more accessible. Often they are a good choice for people who are reluctant to get the help they need from a face-to-face consultation. Some notable mental health apps are:
Headspace is a very popular app that can be used for guided meditation and for help falling asleep. The app provides a huge variety of soundscapes and themes for users to choose from. The company's goal is to make meditation more accessible for everyone. With the popularity of its mobile application, it is well on the way toward achieving this goal.
Wysa is a way for users to talk about whatever they feel like without any pressure. The app allows users to talk to an AI-based, emotionally intelligent penguin chatbot about whatever is on their minds. The app is free and anonymous. It allows users to talk through any negative emotions or anxiety they may be feeling.
For those who would like to talk to an actual human being, Talkspace is a great solution. The application connects users with a therapist that meets their requirements. Users can start therapy quickly and easily. Since therapy sessions take place online, it makes them more accessible.
3. Online Forums and Podcasts
Online forums, live streams, and podcasts allow people to interact with real humans while still maintaining their anonymity. Support groups like Big White Wall and Mental Health America allow users to share their challenges and get support from peers. They feel a sense of community by participating in such forums. The live chat feature that is often associated with Podcasts or Live Streams, allows users to feel a sense of connection while still being able to remain relatively anonymous. The removes some of the pressure when it comes to seeking help for mental wellbeing and allows users to speak more freely. There are a wide variety of podcasts available and users can choose one that provides support for their specific needs and community.
The rapid progress of technology has changed the way we interact with each other and our environment. Technology has changed the way we work and live. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of mental wellbeing and increased the number of people who are willing to talk about the effects of isolation on their mental health. Like it has impacted every other area of our lives, technology will have a significant role to play in mental health in the years to come.
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1. Jul. 2021, "Using digital tech to support employees’ mental health and resilience", McKinsey, [available online], available from: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/pharmaceuticals-and-medical-products/our-insights/using-digital-tech-to-support-employees-mental-health-and-resilience [accessed Jul 2021]
2. Jul. 2021, "Government urged to invest in digitisation of mental health services", MedTech News, [available online], available from: https://www.med-technews.com/news/Digital-in-Healthcare-News/government-urged-to-invest-in-digitisation-of-mental-health-/ [accessed Jul 2021]
3. Jul 2021, N. Ushe, "Aaron Rodgers Says He's Been Working on His Mental Health and 'Spiritual Self' During Packers Offseason", People, [available online], available from: https://people.com/sports/aaron-rodgers-says-hes-been-working-on-his-mental-health-and-spiritual-self-during-packers-offseason/ [accessed Jul 2021]
4. Oct. 2020, "Mental health apps are seeing a surge of downloads — but choosing the right one matters", The Global Connector, [available online], available from: https://echalliance.com/mental-health-apps-are-seeing-a-surge-of-downloads-but-choosing-the-right-one-matters/ [accessed Jul 2021]