Loneliness and depression are two mental health issues that were prevalent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Increased rates of isolation, chaotic life imbalances, social anxieties, fear of infection, and many other mental troubles plagued people world over. Today, we can see that these issues affect people from all walks of life on a global scale. In order to combat the increased demand for mental health care services, people are turning to digital solutions that are easily accessed from anywhere in the world. How can these digital solutions help someone battling depression, loneliness, or social anxiety? The answer is that there are many ways in which digital intervention can help people find ways to cope with their mental health needs.
Digital technology generally relates to collecting, analyzing, implementing & producing data through a number of digital devices. This technology, when used properly, can aid in the mental healthcare of an individual, by allowing critical preventive interventions, casual mental wellness boosts, wellness tracking, rapid education & cost-effective solutions. These digital solutions integrate the needs of the many into social healthcare by using community delivery systems that help reach the maximum potential audience. Increased access, reduced costs & social stigma, large repositories of potential mental healthcare workers, and streamlined services are just some of the advantages of digital intervention when it comes to mental healthcare. These solutions provide an opportunity to those with serious mental health problems, as well as those struggling with situational mental health issues (who may not need long-term care or therapy). While younger people have an easier time with seeking access to therapy and mental health services, older adults might find it harder to do so due to social stigma. The nature of anonymity provided by digital intervention platforms can help older adults access the care they need without having to step out of the comfort of their homes.
The Rise of Wellness Apps and Tele-therapy
If you aren’t sleeping well, there’s an app for it. If you are having trouble with your weight – there’s an app – in fact, there are apps for almost every facet of health and well-being. This rising trend of digital platforms addressing various mental and physical health problems has taken root world over, and India is no different. Apps like Trijog, ePsyclinic, Wysa, TrustCircle, Mind Clan, The Alternative Story, YOURDost, KahaMind, InnerHour and more, have launched within the Indian market, aimed at helping different sections of the population with a host of mental health issues. Wysa is poised to launch a Hindi version of its highly acclaimed app, while other apps like InnerHour reported spikes of over 300% in user acquisition. A shortage in the number of good doctors, as well as a continued social stigma associated with consulting an in-person therapist/doctor contribute to the rise of these types of apps.
Digital or tele-interventions are generally easier to access and far more scalable than traditional mental health therapy. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, many health professionals were forced to turn to to tele-medicine and tele-therapy. Furthermore, mental health based technology can help effectively reduce economic, social & structural obstacles that could prevent people from actively seeking mental healthcare.
Connecting Globally Through Online Communities
It can be hard to deal with loneliness, in an increasingly digitalized and socially isolated world. While our reliance on technology can have adverse effects on an individual’s mental health, it can also help foster a sense of community with people from all over the world.
Platforms such as Reddit, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and more have established a sense of community amongst many adults, while providing people with a safe space to create and nurture essential human social connections. These connections have the ability to span across countries, communities & cultures, helping people establish real world relationships that would be hard to foster in the real world. By encouraging honest (and quite often anonymous) contributions, online communities give people a space to vent, rant, console, grieve, ask for advice, and more.
These digital communities have been instrumental in connecting & helping people deal with isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, by allowing users from all over the world to connect with others facing the same problems as they do. Social connection through online communities has the ability to reduce one’s feelings of loneliness and depression, giving people something to bond over, while making friends in the process.
One of the most overlooked benefits of online communities is the positive effect it can have on brain health, in that it can help people feel both mentally and physically younger, by helping with brain activity. Such mental simulation can help offset the chances of depression, loneliness, dementia and more. Through discussions and the exchange of ideas, individuals can stimulate (and improve) brain performance and positive mental health balance.
Potential Problems & Pitfalls
While there are many advantages to digital intervention for adults with mental health issues, there can be some drawbacks to relying solely on digital solutions. Issues such as increasing isolation, digital addictions, privacy & data breaches, online harassment and more can have a negative impact on mental health.
One of the most pressing issues with digitalizing therapy is the regulation of digital intervention platforms. A lot of these platforms have the ability to make bold (and sweeping) claims, without evidence to back it up. Similarly, influencers can lead people down the wrong path, guided by their own beliefs, instead of by what is best for the user. By leading on users who are merely seeking mental health solutions, these apps can make it less likely that someone who needs help will seek it out for a few reasons: people can believe (falsely) that they are cured, or they can misdiagnose themselves without the aid of professionals.
Since digital therapy solutions are relatively new, scientific research into its efficacy is in the infant stage. The data shared with these platforms by unassuming users poses problems with safety and privacy. The privacy agreements drafted by various digital apps are murky, dense & convoluted. Mental health data collected from users has the ability to be used against people, and must therefore be subject to higher standards of privacy protection than other apps.
While there are problems with digital solutions to mental healthcare, there are also tremendous advantages. With a bit of research, care and effort, people can make sure they are safeguarded against potential problems, while easily accessing mental health care in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. Digital interventions can alleviate many mental health issues including loneliness and depression, but it is always advisable to contact a trusted professional beforehand. The digital mental healthcare market is ever expanding, with plenty of people who require these services – which makes digital interventions essential in the fight against mental health issues.