Technology has improved the lives of many over recent times. And in the future, the potential for humanity to harness the power of technology, such as artificial technology and other data-driven technologies to help improve mental illness, is an exciting prospect for all.
And if implemented responsibly and ethically, technologies such as chatbots and digital phenotyping should further improve our understanding of the issues that come with mental health. These technologies will give patients the ability to manage their mental health anytime they need.
Many people suffering from mental health issues avoid seeking the help they need due to the stigma involved. But with the advancement in digital communications and machine learning, people in this bracket may find it easier to access the help they need.
Research shows that many patients are more comfortable disclosing personal information to chatbots or automated agents instead of a clinician.
Digital phenotyping is a process where a device, such as your smartphone, can collect data, such as how you interact with the world around you. And by collecting background data, call logs, movements, and typing characteristics. Your clinician can gain an insight into the mental state of the user.
Understanding the effect of social media is still in its infancy, and it may be many years until we know exactly how big an impact it’s had on the way we communicate and behave. But if we have technologies that help us transform the services already available, such as apps and more online therapies, they’ll act as a counterbalance.
Here are just a few of the technologies that can help in the future.
Apps. We carry our phones with us wherever we go, and while physical fitness gets the most attention from developers, there are already plenty of apps directed at improving mental health.
Some of the apps available today help users cope better with their symptoms, communicate with others, and share their stories. Some apps let the user repeat actions that help them to calm down.
And while some of these apps can benefit the user greatly. It’s important to note that the information gained will help the clinician get a better picture of the patient’s issues and how better to treat them.
Addiction is a big cause of mental health issues, and there are apps out there that can help people manage their addiction. Addictions, such as alcoholism, can also be managed better through the use of apps.
Every app comes with different benefits for helping users to stay sober. There is a paid app on the market today that automatically connects the user to a mental health professional, giving the user the ability to reach the therapist out of working hours.
You can get apps that track alcohol consumption and others that offer daily meditation sessions. Alcoholics anonymous has an app that follows the 12 step program. Allowing the user to view their progression as they go.
The opportunity telehealth provides may be one of the most promising and could improve our access to mental health. And as we have smart devices around us at all times, it means we can consult with a healthcare provider at any time. Video conferences and the cameras on our phones offer us the means of contact, and the opportunities moving ahead are exciting. And during the recent lockdowns, these technologies proved priceless for some, as it was the only means to speak face to face with a doctor.
One of the benefits of telehealth is the reduction in costs. Not only for the health care provider but also for saving the patient travel expenses. Some patients may also feel more comfortable video conferencing, and in turn, the patient may be more open with their problems.
The difference between video conferencing and a phone call is the human connection the video conference fosters between the patient and the practitioner.
There is no doubt that digital psychiatry’s in its infancy compared to other technological advancements we have witnessed in recent times. But that leaves the door open for exciting times in this field and is an area that is sure to explode in the next few years.