Globally, over the years, we have seen a rising trend in the population suffering from some form of mental illness. The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that in India alone, 7.5% of the population suffer from some form of mental disorder, with a recent National Mental Health Survey showing that 150 million Indians require “active intervention”. With such alarming numbers and this knowledge, the question that seems to arise then is, “Where is the gap?

The first treatment gap is the stigma that still exists around Mental Health, which make people with these disorders sweep their issues under the rug, other than openly talk about them. Safe spaces, where open conversations about anxiety, stress, depression and suicidal thoughts occur, are absent in both personal and professional environments. A report shows that only 10-12% of Indians seek help with professionals. This means that people who are suffering from mental illnesses are finding it challenging to visit mental health professionals and then confide their issues with them. Instead, they choose to live with their growing anxiety, stresses and other disorders they might be experiencing.

The second treatment gap is the lack of qualified psychiatrists to treat these patients, which is a mismatch to the people with severe mental health concerns. Research shows that out of 936,000 doctors in India, there are only 9000 psychiatrists to serve India’s looming population of 1.3 billion. This situation makes it difficult to screen everyone, leading many patients’ illnesses to go undetected and untreated for years. Even if we had people experiencing mental health issues ready to seek help, these numbers indicate that there aren’t enough professionals to provide them comfort and remove them from their misery.

The third treatment gap is misdiagnosis, which is caused by the lack of using accurate and scientific mental health assessments. Laura Germine, Technical Director of Technology in Psychiatry in a leading American Institution shares, “Measurement is hard, especially in mental events. Understanding someone’s brain or understanding their mental function is a difficult thing.” One study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that more than 60% of people who receive a diagnosis of major depression don’t have it. Another study by researchers at Brown University School of Medicine found that 57% of adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder were, in fact, misdiagnosed. Some of the most frequently misdiagnosed mental health disorders include borderline personality disorder, ADHD, PTSD and anxiety. There could be grave consequences to patients being misdiagnosed as it would cause confusion with patients not feeling better when the recommended course of treatment isn’t working and overall, a breakdown of communication between the patient and provider, incorrect medication and worsening conditions. Is there a more efficient method of effectively detecting mental health disorders and prescribing appropriate treatment?

The answer to all these gaps is ‘Technology’.

With close to 560 million Indians having access to the internet, a digital platform makes psychological assessments, effective detection and treatment to mental health issues more accessible. A digital platform makes this process easier for both patients and mental health professionals. Assessment, along with monitoring the outcome is critical for effective diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, which could be made more accurate by adopting a digital platform. Traditional methods of capturing social, functional and behavioural data, provided by the patients themselves could be influenced by biases in self-reporting, reducing the accuracy of diagnosis by the mental health professional (Areán et al.,2016).

Q-global is Pearson’s online or web-based system for test administration, scoring and reporting, launched in India and the subcontinent. This digital platform is one of the only mental health assessment platforms available for psychologists and psychiatrists to take their practice one step forward. By housing the industry’s gold standard in assessment tools, it is also accessible from any computer which is connected to the internet.

What are the advantages of using such web-based technology to administer psychological assessments?

  • Convenience: It is easy to set-up and administer tests to clients, even multiple groups of clients if required.
  • Reliability: As the assessments are already pre-programmed, there is a lesser chance of inaccurate results and scoring, leading to a lesser chance of misdiagnosis. There is a lack of bias in reporting as this is entirely non-interactive.
  • Security: The data of the examinees/patients are well-protected to ensure that you can optimally protect information which is confidential.
  • Portability: A digital platform permits you to access and conduct assessments anywhere without having to carry around bulky test kits.
  • Affordability: Any digital platform is more cost-effective than paying for a physical examination.
  • Accessibility: As data of your patients are online, accessing these records is reduced to a click and assimilation of this data into comprehensive reports become easier.

Digital technology presents us with a golden opportunity to deliver mental health services differently, enabling more people to access the treatment and support they need. Australia and the USA have begun to look in the same direction by digitizing access to mental health services. The time to act is now and follow suit, with an increasing number of the Indian population developing mental health disorders and the inability to access quality and affordable mental health care. By embracing the opportunity digital technology offers us, with its widespread reach, we can ensure that people, even the common man who is suffering, has a positive experience of not only accessing mental health services but moving towards finding the route to their recovery.

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