With the ever growing advancements in mobile apps and devices that have and continue to lead to increasing, revolutionary forms of providing high quality physical care, more and more technology is being designed to focus on aiding patients struggling with mental illness.
"Health IT is being increasingly recognized as an effective way of reaching people who are really hard to reach," said chief operating officer of ORCAS, a health technology company based in Eugene, Ore, Theresa Mulvihill.
Mulvihill also mentioned that despite the overall progress society has been able to make, in recognizing, identifying, and ultimately treating mental illness. However, there is still much more to do and much to overcome as a shadow still looms over the subject, which often negates or causes individuals diagnosed with some form of mental illness hesitant about seeking and getting help.
Therefore easy to use apps such as ORCAS' recently released by MoodHacker, which is designed to aid people suffering from depression identify and deal with their condition, are often considered easier to engage with than an actual person.
“Apps can offer three benefits to both mental health caregivers and patients,” said Mulvihill.
For one, patients may use apps for personal use, because unlike physicians, mental health-based apps can be accessed and utilized at any given time, from any given location.
“Moreover, they're not limited to being used solely for depression situations, but also in cases where a person wants to improve his or her moods on a consistent basis or develop new mental habits,” said Mulvihill.
Mulvihill also points out how these mental health apps can be utilized and equated to as a personal trailer, but for the mind. Through apps an individual can assume full responsibility and control and serve as their own personal trainer or health coach. Through the use of apps users can pay close attention to their daily health needs by encouraging them to walk more, including more fruits and vegetables in their diet, or even begin to meditate. "We recommend working with no more than three habits at one time," she noted.
And while IT can be used to help with what might be considered "every day" or "low grade" problems, Mulvihill points out that the initial and prime focus of ORCAS remains depression, serving as a form of counseling. Additionally, she pointed to the correlation between depression and other chronic conditions. "The research shows that when depression occurs in conjunction with other chronic health conditions, neither gets treated to the extent that it should,” she said.“With the goal of addressing that situation, IT is increasingly being used to help with screening patients for depression, and, if necessary, to provide the information and encouragement necessary to get them to seek further help,” noted Mulvihill.
And on that note, ORCAS is in the process of developing a "coaching hub" that will allow patients and health coaches, including mental health counselors, to create online profiles. Once the suitable therapeutic relationships are set for both patient and provider, additional support can be discussed and developed either online, or by email or telephone.
"Mental health and physical health need to be put together. Increasingly, the technology is available to do that,” Mulvihill concluded.