Mental health initiatives are popping up all over the world, offering new ways to address the serious mental health issues that affect an estimated 350 million people around the globe every year. Mental health issues can include anything from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but often go untreated because of stigma or lack of access to care in many parts of the world.
Fortunately, the mental health advancements community has gained momentum in recent years, with government officials, healthcare professionals, and advocates coming together to fight the stigma that still surrounds mental illness and increase access to care around the world.
Psychedelics to Assist the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders
These substances, especially psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA, are experiencing a revival. Recent studies have reignited the hope that they could be powerful treatments for various disorders. For example, patients who have been diagnosed with MDD and PTSD are certainly in need of innovative and effective therapies.
Organizations like MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) are working on developing new therapeutic protocols using this kind of therapy. Other organizations which work on researching mental health issues include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA).
These groups work closely with other organizations and companies to find solutions for people living with substance use disorder, anxiety disorder, eating disorders, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They also provide services and resources for families coping with mental illness.
RSA has created an extensive body of research aimed at improving the understanding of addiction and how to overcome it. NAMI is focused on educating families, policymakers, clinicians and communities about mental illness so that better care can be provided at every level. Mental health initiatives worldwide continue to grow alongside an awareness of mental illnesses.
Telehealth and community-based mental healthcare during COVID-19
The many forms of online digital care have seen massive growth thanks to their availability in the face of a pandemic. In addition, online services help reach areas in the farthest, most remote corners of the world, alleviating the stigma of getting care. This can increase the scope of health and social services.
Private and public sectors have both created web-based support and services such as Together all, ReachOut, 7 Cups, and UCLA STAND that provide reliable help to young people, their families, and anyone else distressed with mental health problems.
In Japan, therapists make use of video conferencing or phone calls with clients who live on remote islands where they cannot get proper medical attention.
Other mental health initiatives are changing the conversation around mental illness through therapy sessions with animals, art therapy and mindfulness.
The international community has also set up systems for tackling mental illnesses worldwide by fighting against stigma, improving access to affordable treatment, and supporting those who need it.
In November 2018, WHO launched Mental Health at Work week to raise awareness about workplace mental health issues – an initiative worth noting because two-thirds of adults work full-time outside their homes.
Novel drug therapies for treatment-resistant depression
Globally, more than 264 million people are suffering from depression, a third of whom are considered treatment resistant because they do not respond to two or more antidepressants. Recently, scientists have developed antidepressants that work in completely different ways.
This research led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency to approve the use of esketamine for treating aesthetic and club drugs.
New workforce models to keep employees mentally well
The concept of workplace well-being and combating ill health is not new, but how organizations and researchers can best implement it remains unclear.
The effectiveness of these efforts is increased even more when private organizations share their findings and data with public organizations. What works in one company will probably be effective in others. In recent years, models such as this have been gaining traction.
For instance, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner has offered workers unlimited vacation time so long as they remain productive while at work. In addition, some companies like Spotify offer six-month ‘of parental leave for those who need to take care of a newborn baby or adopt a child.
And other firms such as Google and Nike encourage employees to practise mindfulness techniques that promote stress management.
All of these initiatives are a good start in addressing mental health issues and mental illness on the job. But what about outside of work?
Firms like Twitter have introduced programs to help people identify signs of mental illness among their social media followers and provide resources on support networks.
Similarly, Facebook has started a campaign called ‘# HereForYou,’ which offers members coping mechanisms and prompts them to check in with friends following traumatic events, such as terrorist attacks.
Digital marketplaces to ensure quality mental health solutions
The Apple and Google Play stores have more than 10,000 apps that claim to treat psychological difficulties.
But the wide variety of solutions has led to quality-control issues: In this case, the power of “soft standards” and regulation comes into play in order to ensure that digital tools provide substantive benefits to patients, the World Economic Forum, OneMind, and Health Navigator have all begun developing assessment criteria for digital mental-health tools.
A product that meets these criteria will be clinically valid, ethical, secure, and effective. These guidelines could help people determine whether an app or program is safe, ethical, and appropriate for their needs.
For example, an app might not qualify as safe if it requires real-time access to a user’s location or other data outside the user’s control.
Ethical concerns would arise with any app that uses any personal data, including what one posts on social media platforms.
With so many different mental health initiatives around the world, which are getting it right?
Although there are a number of mental health initiatives around the world, not all of them is effective. The key is identifying which works best for your specific culture and needs.
Roots & Wings was designed by Dr. Koshal to specifically target rural Indians because they have less access to care due to limited resources.
If you’re struggling with mental illness or know someone who does, consider what program could be right for you before diving in head first! Check My info diary to get the right information for any mental health technologies.