The UK Royals have pledged £2 million to a new digital mental health initiative. Celebrities are speaking out about their challenges with anxiety, post-partum depression, addiction and more. LinkedIn posts praising bosses that have given staff mental health leave with no penalty are going viral. In the past year, there has been a noticeable increase in the noise being made around mental health in the public domain.
This concerted effort to break down the stigma, is wonderful to see. And, it is not just in the in the general public, the healthcare industry has also acknowledged the need for more to be done. More so than ever, we are seeing the promise of digital health tools opening up treatment options for people who would normally suffer in silence.
It appears we are moving in the right direction, so what is my fear? We are prioritizing gene sequencing and harnessing big data to progress personalized medicine in many other diseases. However, it feels as if we are trying to place a one-size-fit-all plaster on “mental health.” The brain is incredibly complex, a person’s mental health is affected not only by their genetics, but also their experience. Each illness and person requires a personalized treatment plan with their healthcare professional. How will we ensure new technologies treat people with mental health issues in the most clinically effective way? How will we measure and monitor efficacy? How will we ensure the tools are safe and secure?
Developing new tools to provide an outlet for people with mental health is a great start. However, I look forward to seeing what progress these tools will make in recognizing specific mental health problems and working with people on their rehabilitation and recovery.
“Only about 15 to 20% of people who would benefit from CBT get it in Europe and the US. We would never accept something like that happening in cancer or heart disease,” he says. “I feel digital health might have some role to play in trying to level that gap.”