To some degree, every mental illness is considered invisible, as our thoughts and emotions cannot necessarily be seen by others.
However, innovative technology is playing a key part in helping to make mental health more visible, as well as improving the process of identifying a condition, lowering the barrier to accessing support and helping to create more awareness.
Historically, the process of identifying and diagnosing a mental health condition has relied on subjective means, such as questionnaires or forms.
But, technology is becoming more widely used as an addition to what is already available, rather than a replacement, and has made mental health assessments faster, more accurate and more objective.
When it comes to the treatment of mental health conditions, there are currently quite limited options, such as courses of medication or psychotherapy.
However, the advancement in medical technology is helping to improve healthcare alternatives and treatment.
Justine Abson, senior marketing manager and mental health first aider at Radar Healthcare explains how technology are helping to diagnose different mental health conditions and providing innovative treatment:
Mental health apps
Since the development of the first mental health app in 2010, around 10,000 depression, anxiety and wellness-related apps have been introduced.
Initially, self-help mental health apps were designed for mood disorders, but as technology has become more accepted for its contribution to managing medical conditions, there have been several advancements in mental health apps.
Mental health apps aren’t designed to diagnose a condition or substitute care from a professional, instead, they are a convenient way to get additional or continued support alongside professional help.
They provide tools, support, activities and techniques to help manage a range of general or specific mental health conditions.
Another form of technology that is helping to improve how mental health conditions are diagnosed and treated is Artificial Intelligence (AI).
AI models can analyse factors such as voice, movement, behaviour and memory, to provide insights into mental health and wellbeing.
AI is seen as a useful tool in mental health services, as it can help to identify and monitor mental health conditions, by extracting a sample and evaluating a variety of metrics within the sample.
Certain traits and behaviours, such as voice patterns, eye gaze patterns, micro facial expressions and body movements, can be analysed through AI chatbots or activities.
AI models or programs aim to be more engaging than a traditional questionnaire and may be allocated slightly differently, depending on certain conditions or symptoms.
E-mental health services
E-mental health services can be found online and are widely accessible, and sometimes anonymous, through mobile devices, laptops, and tablets.
One of the benefits of e-mental health services is that they are accessible for individuals who prefer not to attend appointments in person, but rather from the comfort of their own homes.
They are available in a range of formats, such as social media groups, websites, apps, chat rooms, video-based counselling and online support groups, and can provide self-assessments, recommended resources, self-guided courses and creative tools.
Not everyone is suitable for e-mental health services, as those with more severe conditions should utilise them alongside other forms of professional support and treatment, such as in-person counselling.
Virtual reality (VR) technology has an important role to play in enhancing mental health assessments and treatment, and has become a clinical tool in mental health research and practice.
It provides a broad range of benefits and makes treatment more accessible for those with limited mobility or people who have difficulty attending physical appointments or locations.
VR can help patients re-engage with day-to-day activities by learning to manage symptoms in an immersive and interactive virtual simulation, that is fully controlled by a researcher or clinician.
Tips on how healthcare organisations can help support employees’ mental health
Sign up to support services
There are a range of mental health support services and charities that specialise in workplace mental health training and support, such as Time to Change and Mind.
It’s crucial that managers have the correct skills for supporting their employees with their mental wellbeing, both in and out of the workplace, and be able to respond compassionately to individual needs.
“What the HealthTech?” is a podcast from Radar Healthcare, a platform for professionals in health and social care to have open discussions on creating change, tackling challenges and making an impact on people’s lives. Many podcasts offer insight into mental health awareness and support services from industry leaders, organisations making a difference and Radar Healthcare’s team of experts to share ideas and learnings.
It’s important to create a safe and stigma-free workplace environment to help build respect and trust from employees.
Develop a culture where open and honest communication is encouraged and ensure staff have regular wellbeing conversations with their managers.
Supportive peer networks can encourage staff to share their views and connect with others who have similar experiences and helps combat loneliness.
Managers should also focus on reinforcing positive attitudes, shifting mindsets and modelling positive behaviours to promote a healthy organisational culture.
Initiatives are a good way to promote well-being and can help prevent stress and create positive working environments.
Positive workplace initiatives include flexible or agile working, mindfulness training, peer support groups, stress management training and advice.
Listen to employee feedback on what their most important needs are when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.
Ensure that you follow up on feedback and produce outcomes to show you have implemented suggestions where possible.