For many years, mental health care has been secondary to other forms of medical care in terms of focus and spending. In fact, many mental health institutions and research facilities have undergone cuts in recent years as resources have become more limited due to a number of factors. This means for those who suffer from mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have fewer options for treatment today than they did a few years ago.
While mental health treatment appears to be on the stagnating in developed countries like the USA and Great Britain, it’s even worse in poorer countries where the emphasis is almost always on those with physical conditions. And those with mental issues have almost nowhere to turn. In some countries, as few as one in ten who suffer from mental illness gets any form of treatment.
However, it is true that mental health awareness has actually been on the rise thanks to the World Health Organization and other programs designed to build awareness and removing the stigma of mental issues, encouraging more money and research be devoted to this problem. Because of a number of outside factors, the focus on mental health may start paying dividends if the money devoted can match the renewed attention that it is currently receiving.
The Advancement of Technology
If there is a bright spot for those suffering from mental health issues, it is the advancement of technology which helps to bolster lower cost and more focused solutions, especially in countries that do not have the resources to use more traditional methods.
If necessity is the mother of invention, then we could be seeing technology-based solutions to assisting those with mental health problems by the use of mobile devices, especially smartphones.
Research at Oxford University for example has shown that voice-calls and SMS messaging services can be used to help assess the mental health status of a patient, to help deliver therapy and to make appropriate changes to their behavior as well. One such system is “Mobilyze!” from Chicago that uses 38 values in smartphone sensors along with other inputs to make predictions about the psychological status of a patient and to deliver customized therapy for those suffering from uni-polar depression.
The use of these mobile devices has helped revolutionize the manner in which such illnesses are evaluated, monitored and treated. This has been especially helpful in poorer countries that have no such facilities for traditional treatment programs.
The Future of Technology in Mental Health
In the near future, smartphones may be able to detect changes in the emotional state of a person based on their tone of voice and how they interact with others which will help determine the right amount of treatment that is needed. These types of advancements are not far away and it may be possible to assess the health of a person through a number of different states thanks to improved technology to monitor and report the changing conditions of the patient.
What is starting off as a small-scale effort could change the way we view how to treat mental illness with advancing technology that monitors a person’s behavior and transmitting that information to trained medical personnel who can then make the right diagnosis and treatment options.
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