Closing The Digital Divide Will Improve Mental Health Outcomes: Digital Health Series Part II
- January 17, 2020
- Posted by: pbacademy
- Category: Blog
I wrote about the digital divide affecting people with mental health challenges in the previous article.
Closing the digital divide can have huge consequences on mental health in entire communities. All of this technology – used wisely and effectively – support people in recovery and works to benefit mental health.
Consider the difference between using Facebook for example, with a focus on a specific purpose, versus browsing your feed mindlessly or on auto-pilot as many do, without a goal or productive purpose to tie it to.
But it’s also a tool we can use to help us with our depression. From depression support groups, to chatting with people suffering with depression, or more simply following Facebook pages that raise awareness for depression.
Actively interacting with people — especially sharing messages, posts, and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions — is linked to improvements in well-being.
Many different ways technology can be used to support people living with mental illness
Due to the accessibility of mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets, these may be effective options for implementing technology-based interventions for adults labeled with serious mental illness.
Young people, especially LGBTQ+ youth, report finding and building community on social media.
These are just a few among the many possible roles that greater access to and skill in using technology can play in mental health rehabilitation:
- Connection and Support: providing mental health support through numerous Facebook groups and other online forums, or through mobile apps that can support people with mental illness.
- Meaningful Engagement: positively influencing participation and engagement in meaningful activities, which is itself a necessary component of all mental health.
- Community Re-integration: providing a gateway to re-entry into the community
- Learning: creates new job opportunity and job-readiness
With so many mobile devices out there now and widespread use, many apps have appeared to help specifically with mental health.
The list is huge, and here are a few examples from the article “Using Mobile Technology to Support Participation in Meaningful Activities”
- listening to music to block or manage auditory hallucinations;
- searching for information about mental health on the internet;
- using calendars for appointments or setting alarms;
- transportation needs;
- medication management;
- supporting others;
- monitoring symptoms or tracking moods.
- identifying coping strategies
- joining an online support group or developing relationships with others who have lived experience;
And the list goes on, with how mobile apps have now opened up many opportunities to find mental health support in a variety of ways.
Some helpful guides to finding suitable apps.
- 7 apps to support your mental health and mindfulness
- Apps For Depression And Anxiety
You can read more in detail from this blog.
Engagement and Meaningful Diversion
One thing we humans all have in common: We tend to thrive when we have a sense of meaning in what we do and having some kind of structure to the day. And the converse: We also wilt away when there is no meaning, no purpose to daily life.
One of the benefits of tech training is that it provides an outlet for meaningful engagement. The old argument that too often smartphones and Facebook becomes a crutch for real social interaction, this is entirely different for someone who is already isolated and needs to connect with people outside of his home. If you already have a good social circle of support, there is no reason to use social media in excess. For someone starved of social interaction, it can open up worlds of possibilities.
Being meaningfully diverted may sound like a play on words, but its usefulness to recovery is big. Whether it’s unlocking previously unknown talents or building upon existing skills, we are creatures of action, and a large part of our identity comes from our occupational identity. Having one is uplifting to self-esteem and the sense of having greater control over one’s life. Gaining a valuable skill set can provide a remedy for many people with interrupted educations or spotty work histories.
Completing The Circle: Community Re-entry
“My symptoms of PTSD were so strong that we had to leave much earlier than we thought.
“Then, I found by chance a closed group on Facebook. These women are my kind of women. They were honest, have no regrets for being themselves and speak their truth. I felt like I belonged there. I can be me with no regrets and no worries of being judged.”
“My advice for anyone, … is to find where you belong, even if it’s on Facebook and not in real life.”
What does lasting gains in mental wellbeing entail? Suicides continue to increase, despite the increasing number of anti-depressant prescriptions. The real solutions require a hybrid of clinical and non-clinical interventions that also seek to address the causes of a great number of people living in despair, including social forces such as isolation and lack of support from the community or family that continue to plague us.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):
People with mental illness have a harder time finding good jobs or safe housing. People with mental health conditions face an 80% unemployment rate. Out of almost 1500 respondents to one survey, HALF of them stated they would not socialize, work with, or have a family member marry someone with a mental illness.
Finally, in order to break the vicious cycle of poverty, incarceration, homelessness occurring with mental illnesses and better mental health outcomes in general; we must look at it as part of a larger system. It’s impossible to ignore the social determinants of health that are tied to the well-being of so many people, both physically and psychologically. The complex interplay of social and economic forces are impacted by and continue to greatly impact mental health statistics.
It requires connecting dots that previously have been ignored. The connection between access to resources (including technology) and mental health at first doesn’t seem obvious.
No mention of rehabilitation is complete without putting in place a social safety net. It’s no secret that having a social support system is crucial. Or at least someone well-informed of social services and drop-in centers or crisis services in the community will know where to turn to for help. Without it, stability and security can become tenuous in the case of a crisis or personal emergency. Another is the kind that prevents housing insecurity or food insecurity that might lead to homelessness. Providing highly marketable job skills provides one remedy for underserved populations. Having job options versus not having any job options at all, is not only financially empowering; it makes a huge psychological difference. For someone in recovery, it can mean the difference between stability and instability.