Technology has revolutionised the human race and has had a major impact on human species. Unsurprisingly, technology has its footsteps in the mental health domain too. Be it smartphone apps or Internet-based mental health support groups, new age healthcare is constantly evolving. The technology is ready to revamp both clinic and clinicians alike.
As depression tops the list of causes of mental illness, it is beyond doubt that mental illness is going to emerge as the single most important threat to human health in the near future. The WHO expects that by 2030, depression will have become the largest single healthcare burden, costing $6 trillion globally.
That being said, it is time we equip ourselves with a newer refined strategy to tackle the situation. So far, the most effective approach to mental illness has been cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Imagine yourself waking up at 4 A.M in the morning, feeling terrible, filled with anxiety, shivering with fear and restlessness. Would you bother calling your psychiatrist at this time of the day? Probably you wouldn’t.
CBT is a talking therapy based on scientific methods. It teaches you to observe the way your behavior and thoughts can affect your mood, then work to build new habits that help you feel better.
Alternate treatment options are medications and support groups where people who have suffered from similar experiences interact and guide each other towards recovery. But not many victims make it to a support group or a psychiatrist — be it for the fear of being judged, the out of pocket expenses of the treatment or the geographical unavailability of such centers — the reasons are countless.
What comes handy in situations like these are apps, which are like the go-to psychiatrists that come along with you in your own world. Imagine yourself waking up at 4 A.M in the morning, feeling terrible, filled with anxiety, shivering with fear and restlessness.
Would you bother calling your psychiatrist at this time of the day? Probably you wouldn’t. But with the all-time available gadget of yours, the situation could be reasonably brought under control to the verge of averting self-harm. Now let’s foray into the other miracles possible with this new age pseudo psychiatrist.
There has been a proliferation of Mobile applications for depression in recent years. Apps like ‘What’s Up’ use CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) to help patients with depression, stress, anxiety and more. It has a positive and negative habit tracker that helps let go of self-destructive habits.
‘Mood kit’ app, developed by two clinical psychiatrists, offers users with around 200 different mood improvement activities. It also has a thought checker that analyses our thoughts (positive or negative) based on a particular situation.
Other apps like ‘Stigma’, ‘Bipolar Disorder Connect’ help us connect to people suffering from similar conditions, thus breaking the very first ice of social stigma without actually coming out in the open.
In the same vein, thousands of apps out there are designed for all iOS and Android platforms obtainable either for a nominal charge or absolutely free of cost. However, technology can never match up to the level of intimacy that exists in communication between two human beings and how they feel and relate to each other.
CBT involves a lot of emotional connection between a patient and therapist so that the patient lets in everything that he feels deep inside. However, an app should not be viewed as a complete replacement of traditional treatment nor should it attempt to do so, instead its role is to provide self- management and awareness about one’s own mental state, an entirely different perspective of health care.
Various studies and trials have proven that evidence-based cognitive and behavioral therapies can be delivered online safely and effectively. Apps provide truly valuable insights into one’s state of mind in cases of moderate levels of depression.
On the other hand, there are online support groups, discussion boards, and blogs, where people can find others suffering from similar conditions which can actually help them heal better. Gathering courage for accepting “mental issues” publicly can be daunting, these support groups provide anonymity while staying in the comforts of our home. Seeing others fighting even tougher battles of life can fill hopes and optimism in our own.
Tafheem Masudi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Shivangi Pandey (email@example.com)