An over reliance on technology as a mental health solution can put people in danger, warns RedArc

“Notification of a poor mental health score via a mental health technology platform without appropriate clinical intervention in place could cause more distress,” warns Christine Husbands, managing director of RedArc, further enforcing the need for strong clinical human support to supplement technological solutions.

RedArc believes that employers, employees, insurers and the wider mental health community are increasingly seeking technological solutions that allow more people to manage their own mental wellbeing – this includes phone apps through to online tools and resources, often enabling self-management of some of the less serious mental health conditions, and some give a clinical mental health assessment or score.

Technology is undoubtedly an efficient way to allow individuals to engage with a resource in their own time and privately, getting help at an early stage, hopefully before they become too unwell to work. However this can only go so far. What is needed is for technology to guide people with more severe or complex needs into strong clinical help from a medical practitioner – but RedArc believes that this support is not always provided.

Christine Husbands continued: “If an individual has had the courage to engage with an online tool that tells them they are in a serious position, then support needs to be delivered appropriately and efficiently. Often those that do seek help, leave it until they have reached crisis point, and so being given a negative mental health assessment only goes to emphasise their concerns. If the right support does not materialise, the individual can be left high and dry and their mental health could deteriorate further.”

Dr Andres Fonseca, is Co-Founder & CEO of Thrive, an app that has been developed using clinical techniques to help manage common mental health conditions, agrees with Husbands: “We offer tripartite support for our users – prevention, detection and treatment – and depending on the results of the questionnaires that screen for anxiety and depression; we can and do direct people to external support. Technology is an amazing facilitator and for many people, the ability to self-manage their mental health via online therapeutic techniques is enough to improve their mood and resilience. However, any organisation that is seeking to provide mental health support to their staff or customers via an app should ensure that safe guards are in place and that a user who really needs bespoke support from a medical expert can access that quickly and efficiently.”

Some EAPs forcing patient to choose between inappropriate treatment or delays

Some employee assistance programmes (EAPs) now use technology as a route into their range of services, which is definitely a step in the right direction in making access more convenient. However, many EAPs have a limited range of mental health therapies, do not offer a sufficient number of sessions, nor do they carry out a clinical assessment to determine what would be the most appropriate therapy. Individuals, many of whom will have complex needs, will not know whether they need counselling or other specialist therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or a range of others, and therefore may undergo a course which is not appropriate for them. If they choose to apply for an assessment via the NHS before accepting treatment, they may face delays which will only serve to exacerbate their condition.

Christine Husbands concluded: “We have to be certain that we aren’t leaving mental health patients in the lurch – particularly in cases where the technological solution, provided with good intention, has highlighted that the individual does have a significant problem.

“Convenient, early access to a strong clinical mental health support programme, harnessing the power of technology, supported by human intervention, is in my view, the solution to the seemingly ever-increasing mental health problem faced by insurers and employers.”