Data Science: A New Frontier for Mental Health
May 12th, 2021
As we are aware technology has come a long way. Computer devices are forever advancing, these little machines can access all kinds of information, from our location, to the level of engagement with friends/family and our online presence.
Technology presents us with new opportunities to overcome and make a difference. This could allow more people to access support and make better use of technology, especially in the mental health sector. Will the future of such development allocate better treatment and recovery?
A study performed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that globally every 40 seconds, at least one person dies as a result of poor mental health. This shows that there is a wealth of opportunity to help those who are suffering and have the ability to control the magnitude of the problem.
We have grown to understand that data is essential to learn and predict content. For an app to be effective, users must grant permissions for the app to access personal information. With permissions apps such as Mind, Beat Panic could learn the behaviour of a user to then go ahead and recommend content around that particular user. It has been said that such apps have the ability to use a devices built in sensors to collect information. If that’s the case, the detection of a change in behaviour will provide help if necessary.
Mindscape, an app developed with our chosen charity Mind, is designed as a support tool guiding them to relax whilst asking a sequence of questions to determine their emotional state. This was launched for the Alexa and Google Home, and this provides another alternative for those who may find a barrier speaking human to human. Voice assistants by 2023 are predicted to be on over 8 billion devices.
Calm is a free app which helps those that are suffering from anxiety activities involving meditation, breathing and mindfulness engagement.
Technology is providing alternative ways to support and benefit those who are suffering. Those that do not feel comfortable to attend support groups in their local towns, have the options to use internet-based support groups. Those that want to escape reality have the ability to do so through VR headsets and other platforms such as calms.
Virtual Reality (VR) has started to make a difference to mental health sufferers, providing activities and treatment for those who are struggling. For example, those that fear heights can be placed in a virtual atrium through the use of the headset. The Guardian also reported programmes that can tackle psychosis, by placing people in virtual worlds that replicate buses or cafes. Having a progression route whereby the scenario gets more and more crowded with people, easing them into real life situations. This has become successful in a care home in Wales, which has shown that since introducing tech to their residents, the need for anti-psychotic drugs have decreased and the calls for emergency services have fallen 29%. ‘It will continue to develop and there is no shortage of ideas to help those in need.’
The convenience around these developments allows a user to access treatment whenever they feel necessary. Which leads to an ease in anonymity, the individual can seek treatment without going through another person first-hand.
The initial attraction could be more appealing to a generation that have been brought up around technology rather than the traditional methods.
The service can be provided to anyone with a smartphone, relieving those that live in remote areas.
Those who do not like to speak out or seek advice from a professional could potentially benefit.
The initial data collection such as one’s location and phone use will have the ability to develop activities in the long run.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) has stated that there is a range of opportunities that have led to app development, and whilst there are many apps available, the concern over lack of information and regulation could create unease to consumers and what apps they can trust.
The privacy concerns will have to be taken into consideration.
With this development, there is no say whether the app will work for everyone and for every condition.
With the initial treatment swaying towards an app, again, there is no app that can be deemed effective without guidance and persistence.
With an app there must be some type of ‘hype’ promotion and if an app promises more than what it delivers consumers could be worse off and have less effect than what the app is promoting.
It will be interesting to think of technology as a helpful tool in our society, from its usual judgement of distraction and the expectations of approval due to our online presence and actions. It really can have the potential to be worthwhile and help understand mental health and future developments. It’s important to stress that one in four of us will face a mental health problem with two thirds who are known to have a mental disorder and are not seeking help. The potential for technology to really get to grips with an understanding of mental health is apparent, with the future ahead I wonder where else it could lead us?
Do you think technology is the key to tackle mental health? Do you worry about where technology is going, have we gone too far?
If you need support, Mind Infoline and Legal Line are confidential services.
Call 0300 123 3393