Technology and Mental Health Rehab at Home

Technology-driven services and mental health rehab might just be a marriage made in heaven, especially for Indian society.

A high-level review of the numbers reveals why this could be the solution we have all needed for years. According to a study published by The Lancet, one in seven Indians are affected by various mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.

In fact, some sources even say that India has the highest prevalence of mental illnesses, globally.

When the research is broken down and analysed closely, the numbers reveal another worrying statistic – that more women suffer from mental health illnesses than men do. And an overwhelming 56 million people suffer from depression.

What does this translate to?

“A quick look around our own homes and workplaces shows us the face of mental health issues in our lives” says Chiamala Aravamudhan, CEO of c-Soft Technologies. “Our families, our social circles – they’re filled with people struggling with mental health issues, but some of them may not even understand what’s going on with them. We ourselves may be in the same position.”

The barriers to care are many. “Social stigma or societal taboo are just one of the factors preventing people from getting mental health care” explains Pune-based Nitya Saraswat, a 33-year software engineer. “What about privacy? What about the support people need to overcome these diseases? How do we solve these problems?”

How Technology Can Help

Leveraging technology may provide a promising answer, especially when it comes to privacy and support.

Take, for instance, the case with Nirmala, a young lady based in Hubli, who was struggling with a few issues at home. The constant struggle very naturally led to weariness and feelings of sadness and anxiety.

Encouraged by a friend, she scheduled an online consultation with a Bangalore-based counsellor, who helped her find a way out. We asked her whether turning to technology made a tangible difference for her.

“It really did make a difference. I didn’t need to travel all the way to Bangalore for my visit,” says Nirmala. “I didn’t even need to leave my home. But the most important part was that I had the privacy I needed.”

Watch Nirmala’s share her experience, below.

Working in a New Paradigm

Mental health care is a specialty that requires a significant amount of empathy, compassion, and sensitivity on the part of the care providers.

While it’s easy to see technology as the magic pill solution, leveraging it for maximum benefit will take time, investment in infrastructure, and retraining medical professionals used to working in a particular set of circumstances.

“It’s not just about getting on a video call to do a quick consultation,” says Chiamala. “We need to integrate technology in a way where the entire experience is seamless and familiar.

On the patient side, that means the journey from searching for a doctor and then completing the appointment. For hospitals and doctors offices, that means being visible for the right search at the right time, providing patients with the tools they need, and having strong processes in place.

We also need infrastructure-related fixes to provide better connectivity – at least in India. It’s a massive undertaking.”

Using Technology as a Support Service

Patients and their support networks look towards hospitals and medical professionals to help them understand how to navigate mental health care – which is the perfect opportunity for a technology intervention.

For some patients, the decision to get help at home is a matter of research and asking around – a practice that adds to the already existing anxiety.

“I asked everyone I knew – outside of family – if they had ever met a therapist online. I asked them what their experience was like” says Nitya. “But these are personal questions that Indian people can feel conscious about answering. And I felt like I was being judged the whole time.

Some kind of education or supporting literature would have been nice to have. Imagine having access to an online education program. Or even a social media channel where we can have our questions and concerns answered. It’s not unheard of, especially in Western countries. But we need more of these available right here at home.”