Talking therapies for mental health conditions are among countless medical interventions that have been disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many patients have now turned to digital solutions to supplement their usual in-person treatment. But are digital mental health systems struggling to make up for the face-to-face connection lost in lockdown, or is this a watershed moment for the delivery of mental health treatment?
Mobile phone apps for mental health management have seen a global surge in popularity under lockdown. According to mobile app marketing intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the world’s top ten English-language mental wellness apps generated two million more downloads in April, as the seriousness of the situation began to dawn on people. Likewise, digital therapy workstation Kara Connect has seen a 16-fold increase in usage of its platform since the pandemic began.”
Chloe Kent, Medical Writer at GlobalData
It’s perhaps helpful to note that there are many variations of the so-called mental health applications out there, from tech driven platforms like BioBeats, which use artificial intelligence (AI) and wearables to provide mental health support to big-name wellness-based solutions like Headspace and Calm. Alongside these are online services like ICS Digital Therapies, which work as an intermediary to allow traditional talking therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and long-term counselling to take place virtually.
The big question for organisations in all three of these categories is whether patients will choose to continue with these digital means even when they are able to see a therapist in person again. As lockdown restrictions start to lift and the day social distancing is longer needed inches slowly closer, will the popularity of digital mental health start to taper off?
I actually think that there’ll be an improvement in the willingness of patients and therapists to work in that way. It’s really shown that mental health support can be delivered digitally, and there are many services that have been working in this way for years with really good results.”
Sarah O’Donnell, ICS operations director
Kent concludes: “It’s unsurprising that a surge in demand for mental health care services is expected post-pandemic too, with thousands of people across the world grieving lost loved ones and lost livelihoods. Resources are already stretched thin for mental health care, so the ability to access therapy digitally could shorten the path to treatment considerably as patients will no longer be limited by location-based availability. This is expected to be particularly beneficial to younger people.”