Alarming Spike in Mental Health Cases: Digital Health Vows to Offer Quality and Faster Care | Guest Post by Deepu Bhat

In Europe, one in every two individuals suffer from mental illness. 17% of 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 the human body. If applied in the right direction, it can do wonders. If used wrongly, it can make one’s life miserable. As per research studies, depression is one of the most-leading causes of mental disability across the world. Fortune Business Insights, in a recent study stated that the digital health market is expected to rise at a significant rate in the foreseeable future owing to the rising preference for online health appointments and teleconsultation.

More than mental illness, it is the stigmatization that persists in the world. People are not fully aware of mental disorders and carry a negative attitude towards the ones who care for mentally-challenged. Although the 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 the same, but patients can choose their own environment and surroundings to seek help. With digital health is growing by leaps and bounds, players across the world are investing in this platform, thereby promising patients to offer quality, convenient, and quick access to quality care.

Let’s try to understand how digital health supports 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, and others. There are people with severe mental illnesses but aren’t receiving proper treatment. With the advent of digitized healthcare, you can get access to quality treatment. 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 getting in touch with a psychiatrist online seems impossible?

Video-based Telepsychiatry

Convenience, affordability, accessibility: these are the three main aspects of mental health services. Listing out some of primary benefits of telepsychiatry:

  • 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 the patient is located
  • No more delays or wait time
  • Bridges the gap of transportation
  • No visit to Triage rooms

As people around the world are increasingly using smartphones and tablets, the demand for this platform is expected to increase considerably.

As telepsychiatry is becoming popular among the population, a mental health institution called ‘Blue Mountain Counselling’ launched this service in their treatment protocol in the month of January this year. Another 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 patient participation in online healthcare appointments. Both the patients and healthcare care providers prefer this service as it offers an unprecedented level of convenience to both the parties.

Digital Health is ‘The Solution’ to Mental Health in this ‘New Normal’

In such an unprecedented crisis, mental health has become one of the foremost concerns today. According to the American Psychiatric Association, around one-third of people in the U.S. claimed that COVID-19 affected their mental health. The cause of this mental illness is social distancing, unemployment, disruption in daily routines, and making impulsive and anxious choices every day. Several frontline workers are undergoing stress as they work tirelessly and deal with deaths on a daily basis. Knowing the current state of affairs, coronavirus is exacerbating the present mental health situation and is rapidly developing new cases.

The best way to deal with mental health is to have a face-to-face conversation with a shrink. However, the uncertainty and unpredictability caused by this pandemic have restricted the patient to connect in-person with their doctors. Digital health is a sensible solution to address the urgent needs of people amidst crisis. Several patients are realizing the real potential of digital health tools in this new normal trend. Experts in this field ensure to deliver the best care to mental health patients. Studies show that even after the pandemic is over and under control, digital health will continue to be the preferable choice for people suffering from any illness.

Listing down different ways of how mental health patients receive help digitally:

  1. Therapy Sessions by Adoption of Telehealth: As per Lancet Commentary, the health experts in China offered self-help and physiological therapy programs across universities, medical institutions, and other societies.
  2. Utilization of Mental Health Apps: Researchers at Canada have recently developed an app that can track and monitor the mental health of patients.
  3. Messaging Platforms: Several health institutions and government organizations plan to deliver reliable information through automated text messages. Recently, Snapchat announced the launch of a new in-app feature called ‘Here for You’. This feature aims to offer proactive support to those suffering from mental or emotional crisis.

What is more important is to train medical professionals, specialists, and other healthcare workers on how to use these innovative technologies for delivering optimal care. Digital technology is evolving and slowly and steadily, people are acclimatizing to the new normal and digitization of health. 2020 is definitely going to be the year when digital technology revamps the healthcare sector. If we have to bend the curve in the exact direction, what we need is investment, government support, research, and better training to produce maximum returns.

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 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 talks about awareness of 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 the 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 connect 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 queues 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 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.


Author’s Bio:
Deepu Bhat is currently working as a content specialist and a subject matter expert in healthcare, food and beverages, and ICT domains. As a content writer and editor, her role involves creating unique content. She has experience in writing articles, blogs, press releases, and social media marketing. Deepu believes in writing engaging content as per customer requirements. She strongly believes in continuous learning and improving her skill sets. She specializes in offering key insights and relevant information.