E-mental health may not work for everyone
While the program I used taught me a lot, I found myself questioning whether such a universal approach could really work at scale. The absence of non-verbal communication in e-therapy, for example, could hinder the development of a therapeutic relationship. E‑mental health interventions may also be unable to replicate the empathy and emotional understanding that mental health professionals share with a person. For this reason, e-therapy is not recommended for someone with a severe mental health condition such as schizophrenia or severe depression.
A person’s experience of e-mental health can be influenced by multiple factors, including age, technology confidence level and the effect of a mental health issue on cognitive functioning (e.g. memory, decision-making, perception). Some people, such as older adults, may require additional support to use digital tools as a result of changes in memory, vision or manual dexterity.
Safeguarding vulnerable people
E-mental health services are entrusted with deeply sensitive information, making data protection a priority. Sadly, people with mental health issues have already become the centre of a major data breach. In 2020, the records of thousands of patients of Vastaamo (a Finnish psychotherapy service provider) were hacked, with many being leaked online. This event highlights the importance of securing electronic medical record systems – and what can happen if they are not adequately protected.
People must be at the forefront of every e-mental health intervention, so they can feel safe and supported during a particularly distressing time. Although I can only speak to my own experience, the program I used empowered me to combat the stress I thought would never leave. This Mental Health Awareness Week, I hope that others also have the chance to access care that works for them, whether that be in person or virtually.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Health Policy Partnership.