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Technology & Mental Health

Technology and mental health, you say?

The robots are taking over!

Perhaps not, but technological advancements in the mental health space have been fast and often unexpected.

From apps that can track changes in our voices and movements to determine if we need help via a signal sent ahead of a potential crisis, to commonplace apps such as Headspace and Calm, the way technology influences our lives is starting to change.

Many people find the influence of technology around mental health and wellbeing to be a polarising one, so why don’t we go over some pros and cons?

Half closed laptop in a dark room

Pros:

It’s convenient
Unlike traditional forms of therapy, wellbeing advice and mental health support, mental health technology provides us with a faster alternative.

For many people, the process of seeking help in traditional forms can be intimidating and too time-consuming when combined with the day-to-day demands of work – technology provides an easier alternative.

From online support groups to therapy via video call, the available options seem endless and they are all only a click away.

 
It’s (usually) cheaper
Conventional therapies tend to have one huge barrier for many – lack of affordability.

Though there are free options available, the process can often be too long-winded to access these free options, and often, they are much shorter in duration.

Meditation apps are a popular example of a wellbeing-related methodology making its way into the mainstream and providing a cheaper, accessible alternative that can still make a huge difference for people.

 

It’s a great first step
People who are just starting to acknowledge and discover their own mental health and how it may present will find it much easier to research online than to potentially ask someone or have a conversation about it.

Facebook groups, mental health content on social media and TedTalks on Youtube are great examples of introductions into the ‘mental health discussion’ and mental health technology.

In this regard, it is far more accessible to those in more remote areas, or those that don’t have the means to travel to seek further help in person.

hands over a keyboard of a laptop

Cons:
 
It isn’t regulated
As of yet, there are no specific regulations in place for wellbeing and mental health-related apps and online offerings.

The best way to navigate around this is to ask healthcare or counselling professionals which apps/online services they would be most likely to recommend, but even so, the lack of regulation can be a huge issue for people seeking out professional or beneficial advice.

The bottom line? Doing your own research is the most advisable option. Certain online therapies such as Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) have been deemed as effective as traditional CBT.

If there is a trial available, it’s the best way to determine it for yourself.

 

Privacy
It’s an issue rampant across all forms of technology, but when it comes to our personal information in terms of our mental health history and our thoughts around it, it’s information we are understandably very concerned about.

Nobody (don’t lie) likes reading terms and conditions, but when using apps or online services for mental health and wellbeing, we should probably all be a bit more proactive about what information we are giving out and how it is stored.

(Seriously…if you know you aren’t going to read the terms & conditions then for the LOVE OF GOD, don’t download/agree to anything!)

 

Is it the death of traditional forms of therapy and mental health advice?
We might assume that this is mental health professionals potentially being a touch dramatic, but there is a solid grain of truth here – if people can get a more accessible, often cheaper version of their services, then will their services continue to even be accessed?

Mental health technology does pose a certain type of threat to the industry, not just as a competitor but as an un-regulated alternative.

Additionally, most people are of the belief that though technology may provide a great first step and be suitable for a large group of people, it cannot compare to face-to-face therapies (if we weren’t, you know, in the middle of a pandemic…).

Hand holding a phone

As with most arguments, the main point to hammer home may be moderation.

Though some of us may like to wax lyrical about the power of humanity over technology, it can still provide a strong foundation for someone in the earlier stages of their mental health self-discovery, and is an accessible method for wellbeing strategies that can work.

As a standalone ‘one size fits all’, though, technology is hardly suitable for the entire population. Traditional therapy is still far more regulated and researched, and therefore, is the best option for someone seeking in-depth help for their specific concerns.

It’s not quite a Terminator film just yet, but we could all be a little mindful moving forwards about how we use technology….


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