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Mental health treatment has come a long way in recent years, but mental illness remains a persistent concern. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 43.8 million adults suffer from some form of mental illness in any given year. While the negative stigma around mental illness is being lifted, there is still a level of secrecy many individuals still cling to. Thankfully, new technology and treatments are available to target those individuals impacted by mental health issues. Highlighted below are a few of the most promising technological advancements in the mental health field, and how they could help those suffering from depression or at risk of suicide:Smartphone Apps
Traditional approaches such as medication therapy and counseling are all undeniably effective, but sometimes, patients need extra assistance with managing these solutions. That's where smartphones come in. Carefully designed apps streamline the treatment process, making it easier for patients to do everything from schedule appointments to monitor their symptoms. Those who commonly forget to take necessary medications can even program smartphone reminders or receive texts from health care providers. Other apps focus on building a supportive community among those who struggle with feelings of isolation. Merely chatting with other app users can lift patients' spirits and help them tackle the hard work of recovery. Pala-linq is similar, but this app is targeted at those dealing with a range of addictive behaviors.Gamification
Offering access to smartphone apps is one thing, but getting mental health patients to follow through is another matter altogether. Gamification may help, which is why a select subset of apps seeks to incentivize smartphone usage in a new way. Akili Interactive Labs’ Project EVO uses problem-solving therapy to address cognitive issues associated with several common symptoms of depression. Researchers believe that this, and similar apps, could be particularly useful for those so distracted by their worries, they cannot focus on other treatment strategies.Wearable Technology
Smartphone apps are useful, but often, those in the midst of severe depression struggle to regularly record vital information, even when presented with easy-to-navigate apps. For those unable to follow through with traditional apps, wearable technology may be a better option. A variety of new and exciting gadgets detect everything from activity level to mood, offering valuable feedback that users can immediately act on. Experts are particularly impressed with Spire, which detects the respiratory signs of anxiety and helps users calm down. It's a valuable tool for those who struggle to determine their mental state on their own.
The Fisher Wallace Stimulator actively treats depression and anxiety (and, perhaps, bipolar disorder) by stimulating the release of serotonin and dopamine. Worn like a headband, the device could greatly enhance treatment convenience, particularly for patients who struggle to leave home for necessary medical appointments.
Wearable devices can assist not only with treatment but also in diagnosis. Researchers at Michigan State University (in conjunction with Bell Labs) have been working hard on a wearable device designed to detect a variety of health risks. Known as HeadScan, the unique detection tool harnesses the power of radio waves to monitor everything from eating to social habits, all in the interest of highlighting significant health issues. Less intrusive than other wearables, HeadScan can be concealed under clothing and is simple to use. Health professionals can analyze the data the device obtains to determine whether users exhibit the signs of depression or other mental health conditions.
The future is promising for mental health technology. From easy-to-use apps to advanced wearable devices, new options are making it easier to detect and treat a range of mental health issues. Additional research is needed to get an accurate grasp on the efficiency of these solutions — and to devise a greater range of technological options — but already, it's clear that technology will play a significant role in the mental health profession in years to come.
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