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Digital Mental Health at the Time of Pandemic: Scaling up Service Capacity
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5 Minutes
Two people sit distanced at a table wearing face masks.

The Problem:

The outbreak of COVID-19 has triggered a slew of mental health issues. A large percent of the population has underlying biological and/or psychological risk factors, making them more susceptible to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. These issues can be activated by environmental factors such as social isolation, and experts have warned of lasting psychological damage due to COVID-19. Depression and anxiety already cost the global economy over $1 trillion per year, but due to COVID-19, the demand for psychological care has increased by approximately 700%.

On top of the potential long-term mental health effects, the pandemic has led to difficulties in the workforce and among individuals. Emerging data shows that:

Based on these numbers, it is not surprising that there has been an increased interest in online mental health care in recent months. The total visits to online mental health providers went up by almost 5 million from 2019 to March and April during the COVID-19 pandemic (Figure.1).

Figure 1. Major providers total visits in 2019 vs. total visits during pandemic

OPTT’s Solution:

OPTT’s research team has created a customized online mental health tool, designed to be integrated with the provider’s workflow in order to offer superior service to their patients. It allows for 4x more affordable and accessible treatment. It also leads to increased efficiency as it reduces wait times for treatment, and quick access significantly improves outcomes.

Additionally, an online tool such as OPTT takes an asynchronous supervised approach to deliver evidenced-based psychotherapy, leading to increased effectiveness in its ability to customize treatment. We have allocated all our resources to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19, and as a result, have developed specialized modules that target pandemic-related anxiety and depression for a 10 week period.

Focused on coping skills and resilience building that has proven effective in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, these COVID-19 specific modules complement our existing mental health solutions. It is crucial that people receive specialized treatment to address the route of their anxiety and/or depression in order to prevent issues beyond the pandemic.

Where do we go from here?

This transition to online mental health care during the pandemic also shows its importance in regular life. The accessibility of online care is appealing for many, with 80% of employees now stating that they are more likely to seek treatment if they can access it through their smartphones. It not only provides benefits to employees, but to their families, those who have limited access to treatment, those who are unemployed, and everyone else who may struggle with mental health issues. Given the evidence, targeted online mental health care should not only exist during the pandemic, but it should become the norm.


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