An unprecedented time period that swayed away people’s emotions like nobody’s business – “ The COVID19 Pandemic”. Not only did it affect physical health but also took a toll on mental health. The frontline workers switched from in person consultations to online consultations. A major shift in the field of mental health and behavioral sciences brought access to experts in the field to each and everyone not only in India but around the globe.
One of the psychiatrists from Indonisia shared an incident that said ,” I am 1 psychiatrist in the population of 225000 people. In normal circumstances not everyone had the acces and the resources to travel but through tele consultations people had easier access to the expert. This access led to continuity of care in the field of mental health. Many people preferred sitting at home and talking to the experts and opened doors for people to be more comfortable and also for consultation, family members across the world could join.
This small differentiator will reduce the gap of access for people. India has a five hundred percent shortage of experts. Digitalization in the field of mental health helped experts reach people in villages and remote areas of the country. Just with a mobile phone and network one could bridge the gap to experts. An individual who would have taken 2 to 3 days to reach out to an expert for the same duration of time and for the same prescription or therapy and could not connect with them on a regular basis of about 2 to 3 visits in the initial weeks of treatment could now reach out for help. Remarkable and humbling shift that lead to a good cause.
Emergence of Tele Mental Health
Digital mental health that is the hybrid model- tele mental health is to stay which is the future. COVID 19 pandemic raised the importance of mental health and gave birth to tele mental health. The interface of technology and mental health has opened new doors. Many of us saw losses. Difficult time when we could seek help from our homes. Need of grief therapy increased, grief therapists and counseling psychologists could now reach people who were unable to overcome grief. Many people developed anticipatory anxiety and anxiety disorder.
Talking about art therapy, various tools were discovere. Despite the usual art material, new virtual tools were used on virtual whiteboards. Therapists could look into the space of a client and many children used to come up with other objects and materials through online consultations. We all know about VR(virtual reality).
Art Therapy in Virtual World
There is a new method of art therapy with VR machines. Doing art therapy in a virtual reality environment is supported by research. It is marvelous and exciting to learn that the huge canvas, the world around you where you can draw and your entire body is also engaged. Alterations can be made. In normal circumstances an individual has anxiety to draw or create something wrong or make errors but technology gave the option to “UNDO”. Also the undo action showcased emotions like anger, frustration, worry etc. Why,how, when one would hit the undo button gave a lot of information.
When the review was done by the therapist they could get better insights. The coming and going of figures had meaning in it. The erase vs undo was very interesting to see in a client or patient. More details for the analysis were available. Tele mental health was a boon in those times and would continue to benefit in future.
National Tele Mental Health Programme
As we look forward to in the near future, our government has also supported the tele mental health program. The government launched a national tele mental health program to provide 24×7 free counseling and care to people. “The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better the access to quality mental health counselling and care services, a National Tele Mental Health Programme will be launched,” finance minister Nirmala Sitharanan told Parliament while presenting the Union Budget 2022-23¹. The initiative includes 23 mental health centers of excellence across the country. It is an important step to accelerate the process of availability and access to mental health resources and exports to the country.
We are all stakeholders and advocates for mental health and tele mental health is the key to outreach. Technology has played an important role to ensure that mental health reaches each and every corner of India and the world. In conclusion, what is tele mental health? Tele mental health is the use of telecommunications or videoconferencing technology to provide mental health services. It is sometimes referred to as telepsychiatry or telepsychology². Tele mental health is to stay. As budding mental health professionals we keep evolving with technology. There are certain drawbacks but they can be resolved with conversation with your experts.
I would end by saying prioritize mental health. Let’s make mental health a global priority with the aid of technology because mental health matters. #Unmuteyourself and reach out for help with the access to mental health professionals on your digital devices.
Thank you for reading
Young Mental Health Advocate