Technology and Future Trends in Mental Health | BrainsWay

The Future of Mental Health

What is the future of mental healthcare? The crucial importance of genuine, human connection notwithstanding, the innovative use of technology in this field seems to hold an ever-expanding role. Tech-based interventions have been utilized for several decades, but they are easier to use and more widely available than ever before. Not all technological interventions are made equal, and individuals must do their due diligence when considering the options. 

First, explore the importance of a proactive approach to mental wellness. Then, understand how technology is expanding access to mental health care. Finally, learn how non-invasive brain stimulation is utilized via wearable medical devices and Transcranial magnetic stimulation.

The Future of Mental Health

Emphasizing Prevention and Proactivity 

Prevention and early detection are often more effective at limiting the negative impact of mental health conditions than treating fully emerged symptoms. Workplace wellness programs and new uses for wearable health data are pushing these efforts into the spotlight.

Workplace Wellness: A Focus on Prevention

Workplaces have taken note of the negative impact mental health issues have on employees, such as absenteeism and lower productivity. Mental health challenges may occur for many reasons, such as major life adjustments, co-occurring health conditions, and workplace burnout. Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion resulting from excessive job expectations and little support, a pattern that is unfortunately common in many work settings. 

Rather than only offering help after symptoms have caused significant distress at home and work, more employers are making upfront investments in mental wellness programs. A focus on prevention validates the need for self-care, acceptance, and early acknowledgment of mental health needs. This approach also counteracts the stigma that so often exists when mental health symptoms emerge. 

Setting up and implementing these support programs is an expense, but costs are often offset by fewer overall health problems among employees. This cultural change can also promote more open conversations about toxic workplace culture and issues that lead to burnout.

Predictive Analysis and Wearable Health Tracking Devices

Nowadays, wearable health devices are commonplace, tracking everything from hours of sleep to heart rate. Individuals often use this information to better understand their physical health. There has been no equivalent use of this data for mental health until one recent study looked closely at how biomarkers, such as sleep and activity level, were connected with mental health symptoms.

Researchers used predictive analysis techniques with data from wearable devices and medical exams to detect emerging episodes of depression and anxiety. Early intervention for sleep problems also helped prevent the development of these conditions. While this is a relatively young area of research, the application of predictive analysis looks promising for use in real-life scenarios. 

future of mental health technology

Expanding Access to Mental Health Care and Support

Individuals with mental health symptoms may not always meet the criteria for an official, clinical diagnosis, which is typically required by insurance providers asked to cover treatment. The current shortage of clinicians is another barrier some individuals face when seeking help. The future of mental health technology offers interventions that can minimize these treatment gaps.

Online Peer-to-Peer Support

Peer-to-peer support groups, such as those associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), play an essential role in recovery from mental health disorders. Individuals connect with others going through similar struggles, learning how to cope with challenges and reduce their isolation. 

Benefits of Online Peer-to-Peer Support 

Online peer-to-peer programs bridge the accessibility gap for those with travel, financial, or other access barriers.  

Individuals needing help may find it easier to reach out to those who authentically understand their experiences, lessening the effect of mental health stigma. 

Targeted peer-to-peer support networks can help individuals facing long waitlists for clinical therapy. 

Despite these benefits, participating in online groups is not without risk. Some individuals may encounter groups that are not well-moderated, allowing discouraging or discriminatory conversations to develop. Also, individuals that rely more heavily on online interactions may withdraw somewhat more from in-person relationships. However, mental health symptoms themselves can make social interactions difficult and distressing, so improved access to support may outweigh these risks. 

Mental Health Apps

The last several years have ushered in a massive wave of mental health app development, offering everything from self-help symptom management to online clinical therapy. Online therapy can be more affordable and convenient than traditional in-person therapy, making it possible to start therapy sooner with a broader selection of clinicians. And for those who do not want to seek therapy or who have mild symptoms, well-developed self-guidance apps may provide adequate relief. 

While these developments have given individuals more intervention options, there is still plenty of uncertainty. The app industry has little regulation, so there is no guarantee the app is based on any research evidence. The benefits some apps promise may be exaggerated or provide insufficient symptom relief. Individuals should use discernment when choosing apps to ensure they are appropriate for their needs, either as a stand-alone intervention or as an adjunct to more traditional forms of clinical treatment. 

Non-Invasive Transcranial Brain Stimulation

Medication and talk therapy are the two most common and widely recommended mental health treatments. But a growing evidence base supports the efficacy of technological interventions, such as medical devices delivering non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-cleared, noninvasive option for the treatment of various mental health and neurological disorders. TMS is especially beneficial for those who have not found adequate relief from other interventions, also known as having a treatment-resistant condition. This technology has been utilized and developed for several years and is now becoming more widely available.

BrainsWay Deep TMS™ is FDA cleared to treat depression, anxious depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and smoking addiction. It is a safe, well-tolerated treatment where targeted magnetic pulses are delivered to brain regions associated with symptoms, leading to more regulated functioning and symptom relief. Individuals wear a padded helmet with embedded magnetic coils for treatment sessions over multiple weeks. Because these sessions are short, they can be conveniently scheduled to fit into patients’ daily schedules.  

Some may experience mild effects, such as a brief headache at the treatment activation site. But Deep TMS produces no long-term adverse effects, and can be used with other treatments, including psychotherapy and medication. Up to one-third of those utilizing Deep TMS reach symptom remission after four weeks of treatment, with 75-80% achieving clinical improvement after 16 weeks.  

Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment

Technology has been crucial to the advancement of modern medical care, and its influence is now impacting future trends in the mental health industry. Wearable devices, online therapy, and non-invasive brain stimulation are a few of the many tech-based interventions available today. Over time, technology will play a more significant role in how mental health conditions are detected, diagnosed, and treated.