Technology and Mental Health

Technology and Mental Health

On March 4th, WCPO reported about a new project at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Using pediatric patient data, researchers are employing the world's second-fastest supercomputer, located at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, to analyze and predict mental health outcomes for patients with depression and anxiety disorders, including those who suffer from thoughts of suicide. Having reliable predictors for mental health outcomes for later in people's lives could potentially open the doors for much-needed early interventions. WCPO writes, "The computer takes in all that data and learns about mental illness in a matter of hours, just a fraction of the time a normal computer would take."

Developments in data analytics like this could change the way that mental health is delivered throughout the United States. According to the CDC, roughly 1 in 5 adults, or 52.9 million people, suffered from mental illness in 2020, the most recent year for which they've published data. With those figures and the new Children's Hospital program in mind, let's explore some of the ways that technology is used in mental health treatment today.

Mental Health Tech

Apps are arguably the most common forms of mental health technology available today. Some apps are set up like other personal lifestyle management apps. These apps allow users to set up reminders, track their moods and symptoms and monitor progress towards towards discrete mental health goals. Other apps can help you find a therapist and may even be able to host virtual therapy sessions, so you don't have to travel to an office. Still others provide tools and activities to help manage anxiety.

Apps have proven particularly effective in administering cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT is a therapeutic technique, which focuses on understanding and dismantling unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. According to the American Psychological Association, CBT has an impressive track record when it comes to treating depression, anxiety, and even addiction. CBT based apps help users by providing helpful CBT-backed exercises, tele-health visits, and support groups with other patients.

But apps are just the beginning. In 2020, the FDA approved the first ever prescription video game, called EndeavorRX. Made primarily for kids with ADHD and other attention disorders, this game helps players develop organization, concentration and multi-tasking skills by having players complete activities wherein they must manage numerous objectives at once. Video games have also been shown to help improve memory in older adults.

Finally, VR has shown promise in the treatment of anxiety disorders, particularly as a form a exposure therapy, where someone is presented with a situation in which they're exposed to something that makes them anxious or frightened. VR can provide a safe alternative to live exposure therapy by allowing the patient to interact with a safe, digital stand-in for whatever it is that triggers their symptoms. What's more, there may even be potential for VR as a diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease. Navigational problems are one of the key indicators of Alzheimer's, so by creating a virtual environment for a patient to explore, doctors can track patients' navigational abilities safely and reliably.

Clearly this is an exciting time for mental health and technology. Are you a mental health professional who's interested in integrating more digital tools into your practice? Titan Tech can help you research and set-up new devices for your practice, all while keeping your patients' data secure. Give them a shout out today for a free consultation.

And join us later this week for more tech news.