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Technology adds hope for mental health in the midst of national crises


Three ways to help your patients who may be suffering in silence.

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The bad news pours in almost hourly. Our technology keeps us informed at lightning speed, but does not seem to do us any favors.

That’s because in keeping ourselves up to date, many of us keep ourselves on edge.

The constant stream of stressful news never seems to end. A confluence of earth-shattering events, (e.g. the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests against racial injustice), causes millions of people to check on the latest developments via their social media feed. The habit has given rise to the term “doom scrolling”—continuing to scroll through bad news even though it’s disheartening or depressing.

But there is a flip side to this bad news side of technology and its potential effects on our mental health. Technology also provides avenues to improving mental health. And that’s especially critical now, because the pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found nearly half the people in the United States feel the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their mental health.

As COVID cases surge across many states, the mental health industry needs to act fast to help people who are falling into their own crisis. The effects of the pandemic on people’s sense of isolation, anxiety, and the economy, coupled with the emotional impact of the social unrest, have made mental health options more important than ever. And the good news is that the industry is better equipped to help through technology, which has widened access via mobile devices and other wonders related to the internet.

Here are three key technological access points that make help for mental health troubles more readily available:

  • Smartphone apps. These can help people cope with anxiety, depression, addiction and other disorders. There are hundreds of available apps, and they allow users to share stories and cope with symptoms. When you can’t afford therapy but are struggling to handle your illness alone, apps are a good alternative. Most are free and others are reasonably priced. They offer resources that make therapeutic techniques more accessible and cost-effective. Mental health apps can also provide useful data to therapists and physicians as well as benefit patients.
  • Telehealth. With social distancing still a primary safety measure, telehealth allows the patient to video conference with the doctor, and the method is gaining momentum in mental health. Telehealth offers many advantages for mental health treatment. It improves access and comfort for patients who won’t see a doctor in person, and sometimes video conferencing is more beneficial than phone calls because a human connection happens faster via video. Many people in the wellness industry are still trying to figure out how to incorporate mental health into their practice, and telehealth offers that integration.
  • Internet support groups. With some people not comfortable attending support groups near their homes, internet support groups provide an alternative. People can be anonymous and feel comfortable revealing their struggles and engaging with other participants. One of the best things about support groups always has been the sense of community and comfort in relating to others going through similar struggles as yourself. For a time, you forget that feeling of being alone. Also, support groups often provide resources for mental health information and professional help.

Challenging times exacerbate mental health struggles. Many suffer in silence, but they don’t have to. Technology has opened the door to more people to get the help and support they need.

About the Author

Matt Marek is the founder and CEO of Good Neighbor (www.goodneighbor.care), which provides mental health services and assistance with developmental disabilities. Drawing on his diverse background from finance, business, technology and design, Marek has built an innovative organization. He is also an author, speaker, consultant and industry thought leader.

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