Evaluating the Feasibility of Digital Technology Interventions for Global Mental Health
At the moment, there is a lot of enthusiasm for using mobile devices to treat mental health disorders because mobile technology is embedded in the way we communicate, not just here in America, but worldwide. Though not considered as a replacement for face-to-face mental health care, mobile devices are thought to have the potential to extend the reach of the limited number of mental health care providers in low- and middle-income countries.
A paper published in the April 19 issue of Lancet Psychiatry evaluates an array of studies about this issue and summarizes the demonstrated potential effectiveness of digital technology for treating and preventing mental and substance use disorders in low- and middle-income countries.
Lead author John A. Naslund, MPH, a doctoral candidate at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and an affiliate of Dartmouth’s Center for Technology and Behavioral Health, wrote the paper along with colleagues at Dartmouth, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Public Health Foundation of India, and the University of Washington. Though he believes technology has the potential to positively affect the treatment of mental disorders, he admits it is not a panacea, but rather a valuable tool whose use should be based on evidence.
Naslund identified 49 studies, mostly centered on preliminary evaluations of feasibility and acceptability. He and his colleagues then reviewed evidence cited by those studies on the use of digital technologies for treatment and prevention of mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries. Naslund says they found promising findings demonstrating the potential effectiveness of online, text messaging, and telephone support interventions.