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Digital providers unite to support global mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of information sharing in working together towards a common cause. Prior to the pandemic, mental health was already a global crisis: The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that almost 1 billion people globally had a mental health disorder.

Since then, as the pandemic has progressed, many mental health services have experienced substantial disruptions, and yet demand has increased.

Now, for the first time ever, digital providers and experts from over 20 countries have gathered a staggering number of insights about mental health during the pandemic from potentially upwards of 50 million users worldwide.

Published today in Frontiers in Digital Health, the study led by Dr Becky Inkster from the University of Cambridge, encapsulates insights from a range of sources – primarily digital services but also financial services providers, and other digital sources, such as the dark web and dark net markets.

Ieso has been included in the paper, contributing the following key analyses:

• Up to a third of patients mention COVID-19 as a reason for presenting for mental health treatment and patient worries about viruses have risen, with up to 15% of in-session worries about COVID-19 • Referrals to Ieso’s 1-1 online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) service in the weeks since the lockdown was announced in the UK, relative to the same time period in 2019, increased by 84%

Commenting on the paper, Dr Ana Catarino, Principal Scientist at Ieso and co-author, said:

“Using digital tools to provide mental health services, such as our online talking therapies, can help widen availability and accessibility at a time of urgent need. It also opens up the potential for gaining data-led insights that improve patient outcomes.

“During the pandemic we’ve seen an increase in uptake for our therapies, but referrals are not as high as we might have expected. We are anticipating that demand will continue to rise. Our data from the early part of the pandemic showed changes in what people were worried about, the symptoms being reported, and the disorders patients were suffering from, all of which informs what our therapists need to be prepared for during sessions and the treatment approaches that might be needed.”

The full paper can be read here.

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