Technology has opened up a new frontier in mental health support. Some of the smartphone-based tools that include apps, webinars and online self-help groups are proving to be quite popular because it connects patients, families and healthcare professionals.
Let’s take a look on more specific tools and techniques:
Machine learning algorithm: It can predict an individual’s likelihood for developing psychosis based on their speech patterns. This tool can predict whether an at-risk person will develop psychosis with 90% accuracy. The algorithm is based on an observation technique that notes specific yet subtle linguistic differences that occur in patients at risk of psychosis.
Electric brain stimulation: This technology is used to improve memory. It directs low energy electricity into specific parts of the brain. Doctors target the left rostro lateral prefrontal cortex, which is associated with abstract thought and is responsible for processing signals coming from other parts of the brain. With proper stimulation, patients are able to successfully recall various words with about 15% better accuracy.
Wrist-based wearable: This tool presents the user with an opportunity to understand the specific activities that induce stress and warns when the stress level peaks. It can be useful to identify when an individual gets over-worked and requires a break.
A winning partnership: clinicians and engineers
Behavioral health apps need to combine the engineers’ skills for making an app easy to use with the clinician’s skills for providing effective treatment options. Self-management apps are designed to set up medicine reminders, track sleep, anxiety and stress problems. Some such apps also have options for feedback. Apps for improving thinking skills help users in improving thinking skills. Skill training apps educate the users about his/her disease and help them to learn to cope with their diseases and infuse new thinking skills. Generally, these apps contain videos and worksheets. Illness management and support care apps focus on interactions with other human beings who are facing similar diseases. Along with peer support, trained mental health professionals are also involved in these interactions and provide guidance and therapy. Passive symptoms tracking apps collect data using the sensors built into smartphones. Sensors record movement patterns, social interactions (such as the number of texts and phone calls), and behavior at different times of the day, vocal tone and speed.
These apps can recognize changes in behavioral patterns that signal a mood episode such as mania, depression or psychosis before it occurs and alert the user and caregivers. Data collection apps can gather data with/without any help from the user.
Mobile devices like cell phones, smartphones, and tablets are giving the public, doctors and researchers new ways to access help, monitor progress and increase the understanding of mental well-being.
The author is a clinical psychologist and addiction therapist associated with Suasth One Step Clinic