One in four people will suffer a mental disorder throughout their life. This surprising fact, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently revealed, has been a voice of alarm for all mental health professionals.
Such a high prevalence, and which seems to continue to increase, establishes the need to advance in the development of effective treatments and prevention programs and early invention.
However, the limited resources available in many cases represent a limitation to reach all the people who need them. What can be done so that treatments reach more and more population and faster? One of the lines of work, in this sense, is the treatments that make use of the new technologies.
The possibilities are very wide and varied:
Mobile applications that help us in the treatment of emotional disorders, guiding us throughout the entire process; YouTube channels where we can learn to relax or meditate; complete treatment programs that we can access from our computer or mobile; and the virtual reality used to overcome our phobias to speak in public or to fly.
The advantages are countless:
The possibility of accessing more people with fewer resources, the ease that gives quick and at all times access to treatment, the possibility of an objective and continuous record of the behaviors that we want to change and, of course, the familiarity we already have with mobile applications, which implies greater ease when it comes to including one more in our lives.
But the applications of the new technologies do not end there. Some public mental health services have begun to launch programs aimed at young people with serious mental disorders.
This program, which combines the power of social networks with online therapy, has begun to demonstrate its effectiveness, which opens up great possibilities for the future of psychological treatment.
Other programs that are being implemented have to do with the possibility of accessing mental health services online at the time it is needed. Online chat, email, and forums, through the Internet, which facilitates the first step when seeking help.
Many people have warned of the dangers of this new line of treatment: can online treatment replace traditional treatment? In disorders that often lead to social isolation, is it appropriate to promote treatments that do not involve contact with others? Can a treatment in serious disorders really be done without the personalized guidance carried out by an expert?
The answers to these questions are complex. As with any use of new technologies, it seems that human action cannot and should never be completely replaced.
Especially in professions where the human relationship is as important as medicine, psychology or teaching, new technologies should only be a support and never the main treatment. But this cannot become an excuse for these disciplines to fall behind with respect to the development of new technologies.
The high prevalence of mental disorders and in general of problems that may require the need for a psychological consultation, makes it necessary to take advantage of all available treatment lines. The role of our public health service is precisely to strengthen and support all projects that exploit new technologies towards better care for the entire population.