Technology Continues to Drive Improvements in Mental Health
It is a proven fact that prevention especially where mental illness is concerned, is more effective than treatment after the fact. If you can head off a mental health issue before it worsens, costly treatment of a mental health issue over time can be avoided. Telepsychiatry can provide primary healthcare providers with a means of integrating mental healthcare with physical wellness. The result is a more holistic treatment model that decreases the stigma of receiving mental healthcare while improving patient health overall, both mentally and physically. In other words, technology and its applications are driving improvements in mental healthcare… and that trend is continuing. It may even be accelerating.
Andie Burjek, writing in Workforce, rightly emphasizes skyrocketing treatment costs associated with mental health. “Some 7.6 percent of America’s full-time workforce is estimated to have major depressive disorder,” he writes, “and its economic costs nationally were about $210 billion annually in 2015, up from $173.3 billion annually in 2005, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Such staggering numbers remain a primary reason why prevention is an appealing concept to employers. For example, resiliency training aims to give employees the skills to face change more positively and manage crises effectively. Its goal is to reduce the impact of stress, and potentially, anxiety or depression.”
Burjek reports that almost half of companies in the United States that have more than 500 employees offer “resiliency” or stress-management programs. “Traditionally, companies have relied on in-house training for areas like resiliency or mindfulness,” Burjek writes, “but vendors are offering technology-based solutions as well. There isn’t much research yet about the effectiveness of these technology-based solutions, but most of the vendors rely on a proven framework like positive psychology or cognitive therapy.”
Notably, Burjek’s article acknowledges that preventive care is effective for the same reasons that treatment after the fact is less so: We tend to ignore mental health problems, society wide, until they become acute crises. The employee whose depression causes him to be apathetic toward his job costs the company money in terms of lost productivity… but his problem typically is not recognized until it becomes so bad that he stops showing up for work entirely. Preventive care could not only improve his productivity (while improving his quality of life) and thus preempt a major episode that could lead to losing that employee entirely.
It will be interesting to see the role that technology based solutions, such as telepsychiatry and self-assessment and self-care applications, play in the future of the mental healthcare landscape. As is so often the case, the future looks promising. As we continue to apply technology to mental health, we will continue to see gains across the field.