Role of technology in coping with Mental Health

Let’s address the elephant in the house. Something that no one really cares or talks about. Mental Health!! An issue which is as important as your physical health but is mostly ignored because it’s not visible. The stigma associated with mental health is what seems beyond repair in the current world but there’s hope. Since when did the world stop growing? There’s resistance of course but we have seen this world undergoing changes of unfaltering magnitude in the past. It’s both amusing and sad to see how technology has shaped mental health these days.

The connection between technology and mental health

Let’s take this step by step. Mental wellness is a complex issue and to develop a comprehensive understanding of it, we should always take a de-clutter first approach. How is technology and mental health connected? The world has become a lot more personalised now. Customised services and facilities are trending. Tech has increased the awareness about the issue. These days, almost everyone has access to a smart device- a phone / laptop or a tablet. There are apps available free and paid of course! These apps provide tailor made and bespoke services to an individual at an acute personal level. Accessing mental health treatment has become way easier due to technological advancements and innovation. Then there are online services for scheduling counselling sessions, taking appointments, writing down a journal on the cloud and so much more. Tech has innovated so much that one can actually be in touch with a real-time personal counsellor / therapist on the smart device. It’s proving to be of great help, especially connecting with the young chunk of the population.

How is this integration between mental health and technology  impacting us?

Like they say every coin has two faces. There are pros and then there are cons to everything. Let’s evaluate the role of technology in coping with mental health and wellbeing.

  • Accessibility: Treatment and therapy is possible anytime, anywhere and is really handy and comfortable for those unable to take in person appointments.
  • Privacy: It’s just the person seeking assistance / therapy and the counsellor. So there’s complete anonymity.
  • A starter for personal care: Technology may pave way for for those who have been avoiding / delaying their treatment
  • Cheaper: Some apps / online services do not charge any money and even a paid service / app is lesser than the regular treatment channels.
  • Available to a lot more people: Technology has always paid a role when there’s a need to reach out to a huge number of people. This has enabled mental health and therapies to reach out and create awareness to unimaginable numbers, almost everywhere.
  • Curiosity: There’s building curiosity amidst the masses about how innovation and technology can help and contribute to mental health awareness and therapy. Hence there are more and more people engaging with these mental wellness apps and online services.
  • Support function: Technology can extend it’s support to the traditional therapy by supplementing an already in process session, providing necessary support and monitoring
  • Data collection: It can quantitatively collect information from the users thus mining huge data and studies which can further help in research, projections, innovations for future

This new era of mental health technology is a boon no doubt about that but it has its share of concerns. Let’s evaluate that too:

  • Efficiency: The biggest apprehension with technological intrusions is to extract systematic substantiation that they actually work and that they are equally good as the traditional methods
  • Target Segment: There’s no enough evidence to establish the fact that these technology innovations are for all the age-groups and act as a cure for all types of mental health issues
  • Privacy: This has been a concern with almost all the technological advancement in the world irrespective of the industry. The protection and security level of the sensitive information that’s being shared with these service providers
  • Directives and regulation: This is still a very big segment waiting to be covered. There are no definite directives and regulations in place for people to decide and implement
  • Addiction: This is again a common issue with tech advancements irrespective of the segment. It’s not good to be dependent on technology for one’s own betterment. There are chances of one getting addicted to these apps/ online services/ therapies and not being able to carry on with life without the presence of these facilities.

How is technology impacting the mental health of children?

Technology and children have always been an interesting topic but complicated at that. On the brighter side, ecological advancements and enhancements welfare children’s development. It lets them connect to their friends, exchange ideas and know about each other’s lives.  Additionally, it acts as a platform for children to learn, create and acquire new skills, activities and aptitudes.

But there’s more to it. There have been enough studies to indicate that technology may not be that great for a child’s mental well-being. He/she may suffer from anxiety, depression or inculcate lower self-esteem / inferiority complex by looking at their friend’s lives. They may try to intimate whatever they see on their online space resulting in self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

Future of mental health and technology

All in all there is an urgent need for a controlled ecosystem if we really want far fetching technological innovations in mental health awareness and cure. There has been a lot of research going on usage of Artificial Intelligence for a more advanced and non-traditional approach to the issue. AI in mental health in a controlled environment seems the way forward.

Author of this article – Isha Rajwani