Major global conference on digital mental health

A major international conference on digital mental health and how internet interventions are being used for the management, diagnosis and prevention of mental health conditions, took place in Trinity College Dublin recently. The conference of the European Society for Research on Internet Intervention (ESRII) was hosted by the e-mental health research group at the School of Psychology together with SilverCloud Health. It featured some of the world’s leading experts in the field.

Over the two-day conference a vast range of topics were discussed: from online self- management for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, interventions for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, interventions that target the distress associated with long-term conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease, among many more.

It was opened by a world leading expert, Professor Nick Titov from Macquarie University in Australia, advisor to the Australian Government who gave the keynote on ‘Challenges and Opportunities in Digital Mental Health’.

“E-health and e-mental health has made major advances in the way technology is able to assist the treatment and management of a wide range of mental health and long-term conditions. These technologies are now making their way firmly into the health care, education and workplace environments,” said Dr Derek Richards, the Trinity organiser of the conference and co-director of the e-mental health group at the School of Psychology at Trinity.

Dr Richards is also Director of Clinical Research & Innovation at SilverCloud Health, an Irish based company spun out from research at Trinity and translated to a commercial entity through support from the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC).

One of the current projects that Dr Richards and SilverCloud are leading on with the Health Service Executive (HSE) is the development and testing of an online self-management programme for bipolar disorder diagnosis which will be used over a 10- week period involving patients and their doctors as part of the patients’ overall care plan. “The main goal of the programme is to promote quality of life and personal recovery in patients with bipolar disorder,” explained Dr Richards.

SilverCloud Health and the Trinity e-mental health research group collaborate to bring the best from research on digital interventions into real world implementations. To date SilverCloud has achieved significant success across five countries with over 150,000 users of the platform and programmes.

Dr Richards and Dr Ladislav Timulak, co-directors of the e-mental health research group at the School of Psychology believe that “the use of internet interventions offers a unique opportunity to use it as a means of support of mental health at a broader societal level.”

A significant research trial that is ongoing is the Digital Improving Access to Psychological Therapies trial that seeks to examine in real world service settings the overall effectiveness and cost effectiveness of internet-interventions for common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders.

The conference programme included a series of other keynote addresses by the following speakers: Dr David Daniel head of PROTECT Behavioural Health Promotion & Technology Lab in Germany who spoke on ‘E-Mental Health Challenges and Opportunities’; Professor of Psychopathology, Rosa Maria Banos at the University of Valencia who spoke on ‘The short history and long future of technologies and mental health’ and Dr Eirini Karyotaki at VU Amsterdam who spoke on ‘Scaling up unguided Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for adult depression research evidence and challenges.

Commenting on the significance of the conference, co-directors of the e-mental health research group, Dr Richards and Dr Ladislav Timulak said: “The breadth of the programme for ESRII is a testament to the diversity of efforts being advanced in the field of internet-delivered interventions.”

About E-mental health research Group:

The group endeavours to be a world leader in the science and practice of e-mental health interventions. Therefore, we seek to contribute to the science and practice of a broad range of technology-facilitated interventions for health and behavioural health. Through the study of the unique aspects of Internet-delivered interventions for behavioural and mental health, in a wide range of settings, and for different patient populations, we aim to make significant contributions to the young but exciting field of e-mental health forward.