TREND—MENTAL WELLNESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
RETHINKING THE RELATIONSHIP
Mental tech health, via virtual care, wearables, chatbots and other futuristic innovations, is moving mainstream to support the 450 million individuals currently struggling.
By Rina Raphael
Mental health is moving far beyond the psychiatrist’s couch. Technological advancement has pushed digital therapeutics to the forefront of convenience—in people’s pockets, on their laptops, and even within Facebook messenger. And with that, the category expands to include a suite of wellness products and services.
It’s a new ecosystem that sees individuals relying on a wide range of tools—chatbots, apps and digital support groups—to combat modern-day issues such as burnout, loneliness and anxiety. Combined with traditional medical models, it encompasses a holistic approach to psychological wellbeing.
The World Health Organization estimates that 25 percent of all people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, with roughly 450 million individuals currently struggling with a condition. Unfortunately, care is far from the norm: Nearly two-thirds of those living with a mental disorder never seek help from a health professional.
The biggest barriers remain stigma, time, cost and availability. Many people wait weeks for a doctor’s appointment, provided they can even afford it. Others fear parking outside a therapist’s office, lest their neighbors see them. To that end, Silicon Valley boasts an impressive array of digital solutions to ensure more individuals receive discreet and flexible care. Nearly 10,000 mental health apps currently crowd the market, with meditation tools such as Calm evolving into billion-dollar companies.
And it’s not slowing down: The behavioral health software market is projected to reach $2.31 billion by 2022, growing 14.8 percent annually, according to a MarketsandMarkets research report.
THE (VIRTUAL) DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW
Tech is first and foremost redesigning traditional care by improving access and customizing the experience. Virtual therapy apps such as TalkSpace, BetterHelp and Amwell give patients the ability to call, text and video teleconference with professional counselors on their schedule and in the comfort of their own home. These frictionless options, often a fraction of the price of clinic appointments, serve individuals with time-constraints or those in rural areas who lack access to care.
Online platforms such as Rethink My Therapy, which offers unlimited therapy for $60 a month, particularly appeal to millennials who want their medical appointments as easy as ordering in dinner. Millennials are far more likely to address their mental health than generations prior, with seven out of 10 saying they feel comfortable seeking help.
“They don’t want to see anybody, they prefer talking to people, and they need it to be very convenient,” says Richard Rosenblum, CEO of Rethink My Therapy. “This is the wave of the future.”
Other virtual therapy apps center on counselor matchmaking and addressing specific patient needs. Regain specializes in professional couples’ therapy, Pride Counseling serves LGBTQ individuals, while Henry Health targets black men. The newly launched Ayana connects marginalized communities with therapists from their culture, background and race.
Forecasting the Future
- Virtual mental health platforms are spawning because they meet crucial unmet needs: They’re often dramatically more affordable and convenient and are anonymous, with social taboos about seeking mental help still so pervasive in so many countries worldwide.
- New technologies will continue to make new models of digital therapy a reality: from AI helping match people to the right treatment/professionals to the use of virtual reality in therapy to EEG neurofeedback delivered online.
- Millennials are leading the online therapy charge: Younger generations are used to everything imaginable being a digital transaction, they demand convenience in all, most would rather talk than see people, and they’re far more comfortable seeking mental help than other generations. They embrace online platforms such as Rethink My Therapy, offering unlimited therapy for $60/month.
- Virtual therapy apps will become more personalized to people’s specific needs. For instance, Regain specializes in professional couples’ therapy, Pride Counseling serves LGBTQ individuals, while Henry Health targets black men. Ayana connects marginalized communities with therapists from their culture, background and race.
This is an excerpt from the “Mental Wellness and Technology: Rethinking the Relationship” trend in the 2020 Global Wellness Trends Report.