We need a new ambition for mental healthcare.
Today marks the start of mental health awareness week in the UK.
No mental health awareness campaign has ever put the spotlight on mental health as the one sparked by the COVID-19 crisis. It’s now time to turn talk into a new ambition for mental health to save lives and support those who are in need of mental health support.
A historic wave of mental-health problems are fast approaching: anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse and suicide.
Users are being offered an unprecedented range of digital solutions, many of which were accessible overnight, avoiding the triggers that used to explain why adoption was hard and slow.
However, there is a great danger that you just bring things to the home that aren’t evidence-based, just because it’s easy to do.
The coronavirus crisis has been a greater catalyst for the implementation of at-home care, than two decades of many brilliant, but many failed attempts. Overnight, technology has connected service users with providers in Europe and the United States. For individuals struggling with a mental illness, this change cannot come sooner.
While this transformation is extremely impressive, shortcomings are being exposed.
We need a new digital healthcare strategy.
Mental health is inextricably linked to economic health – the harder the virus affects the economy, the greater the impact on mental health. Lower economic activity leads to job losses, business failures and higher unemployment. This affects public finances and the ability to fund already stretched healthcare systems. Beyond the negative impact of a traditional economic downturn, COVID-19 presents additional psychological stressors; anxiety, grief, social isolation—compounding demand for mental health. We urgently need a digital strategy for mental health to address the magnitude of mental health challenges coming down the tracks.
We need evidence-based solutions now more than ever.
Many start-ups create the technology first and only consider the content and evidence base afterwards, often due to naivety and sometimes to avoid the fact the evidence-based protocol belongs to the author/researcher that spent years researching, refining and developing. We need solutions now more than ever before do what they claim to do. Those solutions that are validated by evidence-based research should rise to the top.
We need to accelerate scalable, innovations.
As demand for virtual therapy surges, new tools and platforms that can scale the supply of high-quality treatment are vital. New technology-led interventions have an unparalleled opportunity. However, demonstrating efficacy and value will be essential for widespread use. Given the criticality of the situation, the rapid deployment of smarter, evidence-based solutions should be prioritised.
Mental health at home should be subject to the same standard of empirical evidence as other interventions.
Virtual healthcare interactions are now forecast to top 1 billion by the end of 2020 (Forrester research) up sharply from their original forecast of 36 million visits for all of 2020. This is being fuelled not only by surging demand but by governments and insurers changing funding models and easing restrictions around new telehealth services. We need to ensure that new virtual mental healthcare tools are subject to the same standard of empirical evidence as other interventions and service innovations.
Regulatory systems need to keep pace.
Because the acceleration and adoption of new technologies is happening at an unprecedented rate, regulation need to keep pace. Navigating this should be easier for new technologies and the approval process for new devices and therapies should become less time and resource-intensive. However, we don’t want it to become the wild west – no rules are just as bad as too many rules.
There is no health without mental health.
United and connected we can change mental health.