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Experts Urge Huge Expansion of Online Therapy For Mental Illness

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A “massive and growing” mental health burden across the world can only be tackled successfully with a major expansion of online psychiatric resources such as virtual clinics and web-based psychotherapies, specialists said on Tuesday.

With resources tight and the global mental health system only serving around 10 percent of patients even now, specialists speaking at the European Congress on Psychiatry (ECP) said the web is the only option for significant extra treatment capacity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week mental disorders – in particular depression – are now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.

Rates of depression have risen by more than 18 percent since 2005, the WHO says, and a lack of support for mental health combined with a common fear of stigma means many do not get the treatment they need. [L2N1H70MW]

Michael Krausz, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and a leading specialist at the World Psychiatric Association, said “E-mental health” should be a major part of the answer.

“Through a proactive approach we can create an additional virtual system of care which could build capacity, improve the quality of care and make mental health care more effective,” he told the ECP.

Web-based psychological treatments such as online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) have proven effective in several conditions including depression and anxiety. Krausz said there is also potential for online CBT to be modified for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Online assessments, web-based psychotherapies,… and online research strategies will significantly change the field,” he told the congress.

Technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence can also be used in certain therapies for anxiety, and various online games and apps are being developed to support treatment of depression in children.

In another example, scientists at King’s College London have developed an avatar-based system to help treat people with schizophrenia who hear distressing voices.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland,; Editing by Stephen Powell)         Mon Apr 3, 2017
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2 thoughts on “Experts Urge Huge Expansion of Online Therapy For Mental Illness

  1. I’d still wanna be one-on-one if i could swing it, that is, with a live actual person in the room with me looking over me (since body language does so much we’re not aware of and they can read it). On the other hand, i was wondering when this was going to be a possible option. Hmm… Suppose it was only a matter of time. I just wonder at the logistics of it if they rolled out internet-based therapy.

    • I believe it would be good to have options … many people may prefer live sessions (as you would), but it certainly would be good to more accessible opportunities to help address growing world wide mental health issues.

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