As the pandemic affects mental health in UK populations, medical device company Flow Neuroscience has seen an 80% increase in demand for its accessible depression treatment in 2021 compared to the previous year.
Flow helps patients manage their depression at home by providing a brain stimulation headset that uses transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) combined with a behavioural therapy treatment app. tDCS, a long validated technique used in treating depression, is a form of neuromodulation that uses constant, low current delivered via electrodes on the head.
The headset works by stimulating parts of the brain underactive in those with depression. At the same time, users interact with the Flow behavioural therapy app, which improves areas known to impact depression, including sleep and nutrition.
Flow’s internal data indicates that the effect of having limited access to mental health services and people shying away from face-to-face meetings has resulted in an 80% increase in the adoption of the at-home depression treatment. Flow’s user base currently stretches across 30 countries, including the whole of Europe, Brazil, and Hong Kong.
The latest reports confirm that the pandemic has had a lasting impact on mental health as depression rates increase. According to the Office for National Statistics, one in five adults in the UK was experiencing depressive symptoms in early 2021. This is more than double the figure seen before the pandemic, with younger populations and women amongst some of the most affected. NHS mental health services are now reported to be at breaking point, highlighting the need for alternative accessible treatments.
The mental health crisis in numbers
Flow’s statistics indicate that 31% of users are currently in therapy and on antidepressants. At the same time, they use Flow, highlighting the growing interest from patients in multi-approach care plans to support their specific needs.
Furthermore, users of Flow are reporting that their mental health is impeding their ability to work, with 35% currently on sick leave. This has a profound impact both personally and economically for people handling mental illness in the wake of the pandemic.
Striving for faster treatment and personalised care
Many efforts are focused on addressing this growing demand for mental healthcare. The National Health Service is striving to meet the need for access with new proposals to improve waiting times and different treatment options to be offered as standard care for those with milder cases of depression. Flow’s founders, Daniel Månsson and Erik Rehn, decided to provide the Flow treatment for free for the first month in response to the impact of the pandemic.
‘At Flow, we understand the importance of providing a rapid response to depressive symptoms as they occur. Equally, we know that finding a treatment that effectively reduces depressive symptoms is a very personal journey, and there is no silver bullet. Trying options, from different medications to therapy, is important but can take a long time.’
‘We believe in fair healthcare, which in our particular case means to try before committing, offering the first month of treatment for free. Most people who respond to the flow treatment will experience a reduction in their depressive symptoms during this period; however, depression is a complicated disease. As such, it is important people have access to evaluate treatments, and if they do not respond to treatment, like Flow, they should not incur any costs.’
Flow is currently working towards reimbursement treatment with healthcare systems and health insurance providers across Europe and the UK to improve access to a global scale and make tDCS treatment accessible outside of clinic settings.