St Patrick's Mental Health Services announces €5,000 prize fund for technology idea that focuses on mental health
In April 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that 'the burden of mental disorders continues to grow, with significant impacts on health, and major social, human rights and economic consequences'.
This growth is costing people in Ireland around €8.2 billion annually, placing an urgent responsibility on government, service providers and businesses to think of innovative ways to address the unmet mental health needs of Irish people.
There are obstacles to overcome: staff resources within mental health services are insufficient and annual health budgets are under pressure as health inflation continues to rise. However, service providers are now turning to new methods of care, by introducing eMental Health solutions – using digital technology, ranging from mobile apps for self-management to online, video-enabled therapy.
As far back as 2016, US health insurer Aetna leapt into its own take on ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, by providing Apple watches to its 50,000 employees as a way of trialling, and eventually bringing constant health monitoring into its armoury. Elsewhere, fast-build, 3D-printed prosthetics have emerged, for example.
Meanwhile, in 2013, it was estimated that fewer than 1,000 apps dedicated to mental health existed. There are now more than 10,000 apps catering to at least some element of mental health.
In Ireland, one of the more innovative options, for example, comes from Dublin-based Cortechs - which recently secured €1.5 million in EU Horizon 2020 grants to develop its computer game treatment for sufferers of ADHD.
Cortechs, which received NDRC investment, have created a brain-powered gaming platform called Cerebrill, which involves a wearable headband that measures brain activity and determines focus. The more the player focuses, the farther along they make it in the game.
Mytherapist, iCounselling and others have emerged as a particular type of option where users have access to counselling sessions at any time, anywhere in the world. With everything digitally logged, notes and learnings are far easier to access and digest.
St Patrick's Mental Health Services has recently announced details of a special €5,000 prize fund for a technology idea that focuses on mental health, delivered through The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition.
A lengthy study in 2017 found that this access to online communities, support structures and therefore novel solutions, such as Cortechs' gaming option, was a positive.
"Few individuals living with mental disorders around the globe have access to mental health care, yet most have access to a mobile phone," it read. Essentially, the abundance of data, via apps or online communities, means future generations have greater resources to fall back on.
Integrating these kinds of digital solutions into traditional mental health services takes commitment and planning.
Health professionals say that a national eMental Health Strategy must be developed and rolled out to support collaboration between the technology sector, healthcare providers and service users in identifying, researching and designing effective solutions.
The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition in partnership with the NDRC and St Patrick's Mental Health Services have announced details of a special €5,000 prize fund for a technology idea that focuses on mental health. The prize will be awarded in addition to the €24,000 prize money for first, second and third runners-up. Entries with a mental health focus are also eligible to win first, second or third runners-up prizes.