“From addiction to dementia to schizophrenia, almost 1 billion people worldwide suffer from a mental disorder,” the Lancet reported in 2020.

Without good mental health life disappears into the shadows, replaced by nothing good or even hopeful. The emptiness, loneliness, confusion, disconnection from anything worth living for extinguishes everything: and this pain and paralysis, felt by one billion people worldwide everyday, could barely speak its name until recently.

There is a glimmer of hope though, as more and more people voice their awareness and support for proper care to be provided to everyone who needs it.

And today’s World Mental Health Day echoes this, with its tagline: ‘Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority’.

There is, of course, no simple solution. Some therapies will work for some and not others, some will work for a while and then stop working. With an Innovators Magazine hat on, looking to the world of technology, there are exciting shoots of hope.

Earlier this year OxfordVR, a digital therapeutics company, said it had “successfully automated psychological therapy in VR for patients with mental illness.” With this innovation, a virtual coach replaces a therapist, opening it up to many more patients. And Oxford VR say “it is the first time a digital therapeutic of any kind has successfully been shown to help patients with schizophrenia and mood disorders with psychotic symptoms.”

“The technology, called gameChangeVRTM is a 6 week, automated, VR treatment that delivers cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) inside safe, immersive, virtual scenarios,” the tech company says. “And in the largest ever clinical trial of VR for mental health published in The Lancet Psychiatry, gameChange was shown to help patients with schizophrenia and mood disorders with psychotic symptoms who suffer anxiety and distress in everyday situations. The VR treatment reduced avoidance and distress, improved paranoia and enhanced quality of life when used in conjunction to standard of care drug therapy.”

And it has literally reopened the door to the world again for some patients.

“We are delighted that gameChange has produced excellent results for people with some of the most challenging mental health problems. Individuals who were largely housebound have got back outside. Using today’s affordable and easy-to-use consumer VR equipment, we think gameChange will lead a transformation in the digital provision of evidence-based psychological therapy, with deployment at scale for treatments that really work.” OxfordVR scientific co-founder, Professor Daniel Freeman, and lead researcher, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford.

Innovations like this are undoubtedly good news but, like all therapies, the biggest challenge is getting it to all the people who need it.

“Many aspects of mental health have been challenged; and already before the pandemic in 2019 an estimated one in eight people globally were living with a mental disorder,” the World Health Organization (WHO) says. “At the same time, the services, skills and funding available for mental health remain in short supply, and fall far below what is needed, especially in low and middle income countries.”

People power will be needed to change this and you can have your say on social media #WorldMentalHealthDay and get more information on ways to support from the likes of the World Federation for Mental Health and WHO. And if you are experiencing mental health problems, please go online to find out more about the support available locally; and reach out, speak to someone, anyone, others really do care.

The post How to make World Mental Health Day mean something first appeared on Innovators magazine.

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