Mental health discussions have never been more prominent and important. After two chaotic years amid a global pandemic, rising consumer costs and a changeable global business climate, people are exhausted. But society’s mental health was taking its toll even before the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. One statistic after another has clearly shown rising burnout rates among professionals, growing dissatisfaction with work-life balance, and skyrocketing rates of depression and suicide – all critical issues contributing to mental health.
Unfortunately, although mental health problems have increased exponentially over the past three decades, the services to meet those needs have not been able to keep up with demand. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of adequately trained professionals, which limits access to those who need it most.
Keyword digital health and telehealth services, which are being touted as the latest solutions to improve access to mental health services. As the U.S. Department of Health explained, “Telebehavioral health can break down barriers and offer more privacy than personal psychological care. Additional benefits include: connecting patients and providers to a broader network regardless of location; Easier and more convenient access to specialists and unique treatments; More opportunities for patients and providers to network with others who speak the same language or have a similar cultural background; More confidence in patients who are not ready to use personal behavior therapy but feel comfortable with telemedicine. “
Industry giants have recognized the inferred value in this area and have invested billions of dollars in mental health technologies. Take, for example, the famous Headspace recruitment app that was released recently announced a merger culminated in an overall valuation of over $ 3 billion with on-demand mental health service provider Ginger. Also at the end of last year, Calm, a sleep and meditation app, announced a valuation of $ 2 billion, supported by major venture funds in the industry. Virtual care applications that provide on-demand remote or virtual mental health sessions, such as: Carbon health, are also gaining in importance. Carbon Health was recently valued at more than $ 3 billion.
But the digital health solution brings with it some puzzles and criticisms. For one, technology and longer screen time have proven to be real over the past 3 decades fuel mental health crises in some ways – be it due to disconnection from reality, less real social interaction, or virtual bullying – the technology has not had the best track record. Furthermore, the fact that there are so many apps and digital solutions for solving mental inequalities doesn’t mean that the people who actually need them most have access. The reality is that mental health services are most lacking in underserved communities – both socio-economically and geographically (e.g. rural areas). These are often the same demographics of lack of access to broadband or high-speed internet, which makes proliferation of internet-based applications for solving mental health problems a moot point.
However, these problems are not unsolvable. Some of the greatest minds in technology are working on precisely these puzzles, both to make the online ecosystem friendlier and safer, and to make the internet and digital tools more accessible. In this last point in particular, the Internet infrastructure in America lags far behind that in other countries and is one of the most important bottlenecks in improving access to digital coverage in rural communities. But policy experts and government officials are beginning to understand the need for change in this area. Especially after the Covid-19 pandemic has forced so many people into domestic isolation and fueled a “work from home” revolution, legislators take note. The latest initiative is part of the Biden government infrastructure bill of $ 1 trillion, which aims to “allocate $ 65 billion to ensure that every American has access to reliable, high-speed Internet access through a historic investment in expanding broadband infrastructure. The legislation will also help lower internet service prices and bridge the digital divide so more Americans can afford internet access. “
In fact, there are so many questions to consider when addressing the mental health crisis that is gripping the world. Access to health care is paramount with these issues – especially as communities simply need more trained professionals to help those who need it most. While technological innovation is a promising step in improving this access, much remains to be done.