Mental illness is one of the most delicate subjects of the medical field because reality is experienced by different minds in different ways. Unquestionably, we’ve come a long way in terms of treating mental illness, but technology is still pushing the boundaries of treatments. Of course, technology cannot help every medical issue under the sun, but advancements in technology are showing us a good amount of hope with regard to dealing with mental illness of people of present and future generations.
Among the recent advancements in this field, researchers have observed that the digital era we’re living in can do a lot more for people with mental illness. Let’s have a look at certain trends in today’s tech landscape that can help us to deal with this issue with practical solutions.
Implementation of VR (Virtual Reality)
In the U.S., a significant number of mental health clinicians are already developing VR environments specifically for their patients’ treatments, and are demonstrating promising results. Exposing people with mental illness to what they fear in a virtual environment that’s safe can significantly help to advance the therapy, apart from lowering costs for patients who may not be able to afford other methods of care.
For instance, patients, who fear flying, can practice conquering their fear by simply putting on a VR headset and riding in an airplane virtually, rather than traveling in a real one which is a costly and time-consuming affair. While VR is full of potential, the actual way it’s implemented in therapy can lead to drastic effects. However, in the future, we could see psychologists using this method as a standard one when treating somebody with fear or anxiety.
Social media may become a boon
Social media usage is steadily increasing across the globe and we can only expect to see that more and more information about mental health will be disseminated in the coming future. This’ll greatly enable people to consider mental illness similar to any other illness. In addition, more people who’ve successfully managed a mental illness will come forward and share their stories. This awareness has already started to spread, helping people to live healthier.
Advanced brain scans
Even with the advancements in present psychiatric medicine, sometimes people with medical illness are needed to try a significant number of different medications to identify what works for them and which comes with the lowest side effects. For example, different types of antidepressants are available in the market and sometimes people with depression need to try different kinds on different dosages before determining one that offers stability.
A good amount of research has been going on in order to refine this process. Recently, a company namely Mynd Analytics came up to address this with the help of technology. Their idea is to use EEG scans to study brain activities through small sensors in order to determine how people may respond to psychiatric medication.
With access to a rich database of EEG scans, the company believes comparing results for patients with diverse responses to different medications may help identify which medication may work for someone with a specific brain pattern. In future, this method can be used to narrow down medications, helping in saving time for patients and doctors.
Implementation of big data
With emergence of big data, mental health treatment software now comes with the ability of capturing huge chunks of data on patient behavior, which can be extremely crucial for those involved in mental health research. In addition, software companies are also incentivized to offer low-cost or free treatment solutions because when more people take help of their technology, the more they can access better data. This can lead to a win-win situation for everyone involved – from patients to software companies to mental health researchers.
Use of magnetic fields
For a while, brain stimulation treatments have been the focus of research to treat mental illnesses. Though using electrodes to stimulate parts of the brain seems to help patients with treatment-resistant depression, implementation of a new technology can make the process minimally invasive. Though the research has been done using live mice only, in future it may help the humans and that’ll be a big leap forward in helping people with mental illness.
Technology has already started transforming the mental health treatment landscape at a good pace. It should only be a matter of time to experience that advanced technology is becoming a regular part of both present and future mental health care.
Technology entrepreneurs and researchers in the field of mental health are striving to use technology to solve meaningful problems and revolutionise the mental health treatment landscape. While a challenge may arise in terms of maintaining the quality of healthcare as providers explore the intersection between tech entrepreneurship and clinical science, awareness about effectiveness of technology should help to mitigate this.