Technological assistance for mental health

The ever growing and demanding stress of modern day life has placed human beings in an unfavorable position regarding their mental health: it is almost as if everyone is complaining about something that bothers them so much that they cannot focus on anything. Many remedies have been proposed and tried, including using prescription medication, socializing and sharing with other people with similar problems or attending long and demanding programs at juvenile residential treatment centers, but the issue still remains at large unresolved which raises eyebrows to both positive and negative possibilities governing our future as individuals and communities.

On the brighter side of things, it is currently the age of constant technological innovation and the total inclusion of such a trend into virtually every aspect of human life means that there is always hope for new innovations and solutions. Lydia Ramsey for The Business Insider reports about Spire, a small wearable stress-tracking device which is charged through a USB port and remains in operation for approximately three days to track an individual’s breathing patterns. Through such detection, the person becomes capable of understanding when, where, how and why they got stressed out to pay more attention to incidents, issues and people which contributed to such a reality. It also enables users to develop their own presets to calculate their ‘focus’, ‘calmness’ and ‘activity’ levels to provide them with better information and insight about their performances. Spike users therefore attain a great chance of reflecting back at their day to get a better idea about the problems they encountered, which leads them to experience stress and develop a more realistic strategy to counter such problems.

In a similar vein, Kit Eaton for The New York Times reports on the Headspace mobile application which helps its users go through chapters and episodes of guided meditation to motivate and prepare them to reduce stress or cope with anxiety. The mentioned guided meditation process consists of single or consecutive sessions ranging from a couple of minutes to an hour with minimalist controls and interface for ease of understanding and use. There are different types of meditation sessions and the app works seamlessly well with headphones to add a sense of realism and depth to the whole ordeal. The only expectation of the app developers from the users is to keep using the application for long periods of time and frequently to be able to develop patterns of meditation along with statistics to help users understand their performance better in the long run. Such a control over their meditation cycles along with their own personal struggles with keeping up with the demands of ongoing meditation schedules, helps Headspace users focus on their problems and possible ways to counter them through meditation.

Of course, one of the primary issues in mental health today is alcohol and substance addiction which has created significant demand for technological intervention and development as well. Rachel Lerman for The Seattle Times reports on the WeConnect app which connects troubled individuals with their counselors, sponsors and friends with the touch of a button to help them stay on track with their schedules and programs. The digital system allows users to enter data regarding such schedules and programs while it also connects with the GPS system to locate such individuals. The application provides such information to their counselors and in cases when patients check into potentially harmful locations such as bars or pubs, the counselors are alerted to communicate with them about their plans and actions. According to Andrea Arany-Kovacs, a current and frequent user of WeConnect as a counselor, the main factors that contribute to a successful recovery are ‘accountability’, ‘structure’ and ‘support’. She states that the application has helped her tremendously in dealing with personal and individual problems she observed with her patients and to reach out to them in times of necessity without any hassle.

Ian Jackson for The Guardian takes a collective approach on the issue of mental healthcare to focus on the Telehealth sector, which has enabled millions of individuals to seek help through their computers and smartphones to access professional help. Through face-to-face video communications, such people ask questions and receive answers or advice from such professionals in virtual consultation sessions. Remote diagnosis is also a possibility and there is even talk about how such applications of virtual technology might be used in other fields of medicine. In addition, such consultation measures also speed up the diagnosis and prescription processes to improve treatment and long-term outcomes for such patients. Therefore, the field of mental health care which has been constrained within the limited scope and capabilities of hospitals and clinics, is now transforming into a more communal and accessible platform, which will inevitably change the lives of millions of patients.

Katie Reilly for Time Magazine focuses on the reflection of mental health related issues in American college campuses while taking note of the increasing demand for such services in such colleges and an apparent lack of capabilities to meet such demand. Reilly emphasizes the fact that the periodic nature of expectations from students at colleges create intervals of depression and related disorders which have been known to create significant problems regarding academic performance. Reilly then exemplifies Virginia Tech University which has opened several satellite counseling clinics to reach out to students with such conditions placing such clinics in popular student destinations. Ohio State University also increased its mental health staff and personnel quite recently in the 2016-17 year, while also launching a smartphone app to make it easier for students to make appointments or access exercises. It is understood that mental health innovations are also quite welcomed and accepted in American college campuses, which can be comprehended as a significant step forward for integrating possible solutions into the lives of millions of people.

One thought on “Technological assistance for mental health”

  1. Really interesting how technology is developing to help troubled people. As we see the rise in the use of technology and the need to help people cope with stress and anxiety we will see more and more solutions coming to the forefront to help people adjust and overcome the challenges they face day to day.

    At the same time we need solutions to help people feel secure in sharing the issues they face anonymously so they can avoid discrimination and judgement. Data security will be key and developing an environment that rewards open sharing and meaningful contribution.

    Thanks for the thoughtful article!

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