SilverCloud Health’s Digital Mental Health Platform Selected for NIMH & Washington University Research Study

Washington University School of Medicine to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Digital Therapeutics in Treating College Students’ Clinical Depression, Anxiety and Eating Disorders

BOSTON, March 25, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — SilverCloud Health, a global provider of clinically validated digital mental healthcare solutions for health systems and payers, announced today a national research partnership with the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. As part of the collaboration, SilverCloud Health will deliver a digital therapeutic solution for use in clinical interventions for the treatment of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. The clinical study will evaluate the effectiveness of digital interventions in treating these common mental and behavioral health issues among college students. 

The study is critical to expanding access to vital mental health resources for an increasingly underserved population. A 2017 American College Health Association Survey of 63,000 college students at 92 schools found that two in five described themselves as being so depressed that they “struggled to function.” Three in five reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” during the previous year. According to the survey, from 2009 to 2015, the number of college students visiting counseling centers also increased by 30 percent. SilverCloud Health is defining a new healthcare model to meet the demands of the rapidly growing mental and behavioral healthcare market, offering a comprehensive library of 30+ customizable evidenced-based online programs that address a broad spectrum of conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety. 

For the college and university population specifically, the company’s digital mental health platform provides students with easier and earlier access to mental healthcare and support, bridging existing gaps in their mental health offerings. The SilverCloud Health platform offers both self-directed and supporter-assisted care pathways to deliver programs, content and tools to meet the needs of each individual user. The company tightly integrates its approach with student counseling centers to ensure that students receive the right care, at the right time, in the right setting, which contributes to an improved experience, with lower costs and better outcomes.

“College and university students nationally are experiencing increasing levels of anxiety and mental health challenges, making the need for easy, accessible tools and resources for managing and effectively treating these conditions a top priority for schools of all shapes and sizes,” said Ken Cahill, CEO of SilverCloud Health. “SilverCloud Health is honored to be collaborating with the Washington University School of Medicine as the digital therapeutics partner for this research initiative.”

For the purposes of this research study, a team led by Denise E. Wilfley, PhD, Scott Rudolph University Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Washington University Center for Healthy Weight and Wellness, received a five-year, $3.8 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. Researchers C. Barr Taylor, Research Professor, Palo Alto University and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and Michelle Newman, Professor of Psychology at Penn State, plan to identify students dealing with clinical depression, anxiety and eating disorders from a pool of roughly 150,000 students at 20 colleges, universities and community colleges.

Students participating in the Washington University School of Medicine research will receive an e-mail from their school’s registrar’s office, inviting them to take a survey. When the survey is completed, the research team will identify the students as having or being at high risk for depression, anxiety or an eating disorder. Half of those students will then randomly be offered the mobile app while the rest will be referred to standardized counseling. If it’s found that a surveyed student’s problems are too advanced, he or she will be referred to more immediate help. 

Find out more about the Washington University School of Medicine project and partners via News Hub. Visit SilverCloudHealth.com to see how the company is revolutionizing mental healthcare delivery and access. Currently, the platform is supporting more than 240 organizations across its global customer base, delivering a suite of over 30 evidence-based online programs—with 65% of users showing a clinically significant reduction in symptom scores.

Attending NatCon19 March 25-27, 2019? Come meet the SilverCloud Health team at booth#253. Interested in scheduling a demo? Please visit: https://bit.ly/2U7xwIO

About SilverCloud Health            

SilverCloud Health is a multi-award-winning global health tech company; since launching in 2012 it has gone on to support 240 organizations across its global customer base, delivering a suite of over 30 clinically effective online programs with 65% of users showing a clinically significant reduction in symptom scores. Today, SilverCloud Health’s extensive library of evidence-based programs address a broad spectrum of conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety as well as specific programs for long-term chronic conditions (diabetes, COPD, and chronic pain). Over 16 years of academic research and clinically led randomized controlled trials (RCT) demonstrate SilverCloud Health programs are extremely effective, engaging for patients and provide positive outcomes on a par with face-to-face therapy.

About the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Washington University School of Medicine‘s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

SOURCE SilverCloud Health

Related Links

https://www.silvercloudhealth.com

Mobile phone technology to screen, help treat college students

Jim Dryden, Director of Broadcast & Podcasts

Jim Dryden covers psychiatry and neuroscience, orthopedics, diabetes, obesity and nutrition. He has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

With a growing demand for mental health services at colleges, a research team led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has received a $3.8 million grant to test a mental health phone app to treat depression, anxiety and eating disorders in a study involving some 8,000 students at 20 colleges, universities and community colleges.

A research team led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has received a five-year, $3.8 million grant to evaluate the use of smartphones in treating psychiatric problems that are common among college students.

“Not enough services are available to meet the mental health needs of students on college campuses,” said principal investigator Denise E. Wilfley, PhD, the Scott Rudolph University Professor of Psychiatry and director of the Washington University Center for Healthy Weight and Wellness. “We’ve been in contact with many counseling centers on a number of college campuses, and they tell us that increasing numbers of students are struggling with many more problems, including severe problems, and counselors just can’t see them all. Without timely interventions, these problems can have lasting effects on students’ health, social, educational and economic outcomes.”

From a pool of about 150,000 students at 20 colleges, universities and community colleges, the researchers plan to identify students dealing with clinical depression, anxiety and eating disorders, or at high risk for the onset of these problems. They expect to find about 8,000 such students willing to participate in the study. Those students will be placed randomly into one of two treatment groups. One group will be referred to college counseling centers for treatment, and the other will be asked to use a mobile phone app for help.

Wilfley’s team recently concluded a study of mobile and web-based treatments for eating disorders. That study involved almost 700 women at 28 colleges. The new grant, from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), expands the effort to include students of both sexes and adds to the mix depression and anxiety, which are on the rise on college campuses.

A 2017 American College Health Association Survey of 63,000 college students at 92 schools found that two in five described being so depressed that they “struggled to function.” Three in five reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” during the previous year.

From 2009 through 2015, the number of college students visiting counseling centers increased by 30 percent, according to the survey. During those same years, college enrollment grew by less than 6 percent.

“We’re finishing our analysis of using mobile technology to treat eating disorders, and the preliminary data look promising,” said Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry who is collaborating with Wilfley. “Mobile apps help get around the stigma of seeking help at a counseling center. They also help work around scheduling issues so that students can use the app when they have the time, even in the middle of the night.”

Students in the new study will receive an e-mail from their school’s registrar’s office, inviting them to take a survey. When the brief survey is completed, some students will be identified as having — or at high risk for — depression, anxiety or an eating disorder. Half of those students randomly will be offered the mobile app, which has been designed to address not only a student’s primary mental health concerns but to personalize treatment by helping to address other problems that may occur with depression, anxiety or an eating disorder. Meanwhile, the rest will be referred to standard counseling. If a student’s problems are too advanced, however, he or she will be referred to more immediate help.

“For example, if a student screens positive for anorexia nervosa and has a very low weight and other medical issues, that student won’t be eligible for the study,” Fitzsimmons-Craft explained. “That individual immediately will receive a message recommending a visit to the counseling center because that student may need more intensive treatment than our app provides.”

Other principal investigators involved in the new study are Michelle G. Newman, PhD, a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University; C. Barr Taylor, MD, an emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford and a research professor at Palo Alto University; and Daniel Eisenberg, PhD, the S.J. Axelrod Collegiate Professor of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan. Eisenberg manages the Healthy Minds Network, an online, mental health-screening tool used on more than 200 college campuses.

The mobile app intervention will be hosted by SilverCloud, a company that specializes in using mobile technology for mental health problems.

Q. How well does web-based psychotherapy work?

The Health Reporter Is In, Jan. 31, 2019

Thu, 01/31/2019 – 7:00am | Debra Pressey

A: Therapy you can access through your laptop or phone has its advantages — and disadvantages.

On the upside, it can be more convenient than going to a therapist’s office and can be done at your own pace.

It can also boost access to help for those feeling inhibited about seeking in-person therapy, or for those who face such barriers to care as cost.

Among the cons is not everyone is going to feel comfortable with web-based therapy. And it’s definitely not intended for serious mental-health conditions, such as uncontrolled bipolar disorder, or for anyone in crisis.

One option to investigate is SilverCloud, which OSF HealthCare is offering free to adults 18 and older who live in the service areas of its hospitals.

SilverCloud is described as secure, online-supported cognitive-behavioral-therapy programs that are customized to individual needs. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to challenge and modify negative thoughts and perceptions that affect behavior.

Here’s how SilverCloud works: Patients initially fill out clinical questionnaires for depression and anxiety screening, according to LUKE RAYMOND, OSF HealthCare’s manager of behavioral health.

Users who sign up have access for a year, but generally complete modules over about eight to 10 weeks and answer questions after each one.

OSF has a network of behavioral-health supporters spread out geographically who help users navigate the system and respond to content (such as activities and goals for the week) that users share.

Research done by the University of Zurich looked at the effectiveness of online cognitive behavioral therapy as opposed to in-person therapy in 62 patients with moderate depression.

The researchers found the rate of depression fell about the same in both the online and in-person groups, and the rate of satisfaction with the treatment and therapists was equally high.

OSF began offering SilverCloud in 2017, and last year began making it available on an open enrollment basis — meaning access isn’t controlled by the patient’s physician or therapist, Raymond said.

“Our clinical outcomes have been fairly comparable to what someone would experience with face-to-face therapy,” he said.

Ideal candidates for such programs as SilverCloud aren’t in acute distress or suffering from a major mental illness, have a certain comfort level working with an online support tool and have at least a sixth-grade reading-comprehension level, Raymond said.

Two more things to know about SilverCloud: It’s anonymous to all but your OSF behavioral-health supporter, who will know your identity. And, depending on your individual need, you may still require the help of an in-person clinician.

Source: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2019-01-31/the-health-reporter-jan-31-2019.html

Tackling The Mental Health Epidemic With Telehealth

One in five Americans suffers from mental illness, yet only 44 percent receive treatment. Why? People with behavioral health problems face a growing number of obstacles that prevent them from receiving the care they need – from provider shortages to finances the mere unwillingness to seek treatment due to stigma. With telehealth, primary care physicians – nearly half of which treat mental health conditions – now have another viable option: online cognitive behavioral therapy, or iCBT. In fact, 75 percent of healthcare executives believe telemedicine has the potential to transform the standard of care for behavioral health and psychiatry.

iCBT is the use of cognitive and behavioral techniques that are typically used in face-to-face therapy for treating mental health issues. The online version is composed of education, skills training, activities and exercises to promote the application of new knowledge and coping skills. It does this through structured modules of content that are delivered using text, pictures, animations, audio files and videos – all of which can be done anytime, from the comfort and privacy of the patient’s own home.

Here’s why iCBT is fundamentally changing how we treat mental health:

  • Combats Provider Shortage

The U.S. is facing a growing shortage of clinicians – particularly in rural areas, where the majority of American’s live. Some states, such as Alabama, have a 1 to 260 clinician-to-patient ratio. Lengthy wait times – even in major cities – also pose as a significant challenge. Patients in Boston, for example, have to wait up to 66 days on average to see a doctor for a traditional in-clinic visit. To adequately address demand, at least 5.9K more mental health professionals are needed in the U.S.

For patients – especially those in need of immediate treatment, iCBT eliminates wait times for a face-to face appointment, granting immediate access to care. Further, numerous clinical studies have shown online therapy solutions to be equally effective as face-to-face interventions.

  • Breaks Down Barriers To Access

Patients who cannot access standard healthcare services – whether they suffer from other heath conditions and are prohibited from travel or don’t have access to transportation – can access iCBT anytime, from any location. From a provider’s perspective, the ability to enroll patients’ immediately and identify a need rather than having them call or schedule an appointment, also promotes continuity of care and increases clinical workflow. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals leveraging web-based therapy are more likely to remain engaged in face-to-face therapies when online treatments are used as a supplement.

  • Takes Stigma Out Of The Equation

For many individuals, sharing intimate feelings with a stranger makes them incredibly uncomfortable. While younger generations are typically more open to face-to-face therapeutic interventions, for many, including those in the Baby Boomer generation, there is a stigma attached to mental health and a desire to keep problems private.

It was nearly 20 years ago when the U.S. Surgeon General labeled stigma as “perhaps the biggest barrier to mental healthcare.” Further, according to a survey of nearly 600 adults over the age of 60 in rural North Carolina who were asked why they didn’t seek mental health treatment for their conditions – the majority responded, “I should not need help.”

Privacy issues are also a concern for people wanting or needing to seek treatment for mental health. In rural communities, for example, residents may actually know the behavioral healthcare specialist personally – if the community is even lucky enough to have one. In larger communities, patients might be hesitant to share personal information that makes them vulnerable to a stranger or question whether the practitioner abides by HIPAA standards.

While as a society we still have a long way to go in terms of eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness, iCBT can be a more appealing option for those individuals too embarrassed to seek treatment.

  • Less Expensive For Patients, Providers And Payers 

In the treatment of mild to moderate mental health conditions, iCBT platforms demonstrate the ability to offer services to six times as many patients than other care models, while generating the same outcomes. This has allowed healthcare providers to offer iCBT programs across their entire population, while minimizing valuable resources and better enabling hospitals to triage patients.

For patients, online therapy also offers a less expensive option than in-person therapy. Typically, iCBT is a low-intensity intervention where patients can move through the online content at a self-administered pace, reducing the amount of clinical support time required. In addition to the cost of a face-to-face therapy session, iCBT eliminates the need for patients to take time off from work during business hours, as well as the drive time to and from a specialists’ office.

Eventually, online therapy can help ease the strain put on emergency services for the treatment of behavioral health, which all too often serves as the first line of care for patients without insurance.

  • Scalable Solutions Easily Integrate Into Existing Healthcare Systems

iCBT allows providers and payers to offer scalable solutions that have a high degree of efficacy. There are numerous online therapy solutions that can be customized to meet the individual needs of health systems and their populations, with the ability to easily integrate with existing technologies. These solutions can be used throughout the care pathway and enhance the patient-doctor experience and results. Developers of iCBT solutions have made the integration simple and user experience intuitive to help promote adoption and effective results.

Widespread adoption of web enabled devices web and cellular coverage, internet-based programs transcend geography, reaching any web-enabled device, anywhere. Whether someone lives in a skyscraper or on a farm, where doctors are plentiful or scarce, help for mental illness is readily accessible. iCBT offers clinically validated, easy to integrate, scalable solutions to health systems to address the waiting lists and access issues at the core of behavioral health delivery across the U.S.

About The Author

Derek Richards, Ph.D., is the Chief Science Officer at SilverCloud Health, which provides evidence-based online mental health and behavioral healthcare solutions.

Top 5 reasons online cognitive behavioral therapies are the future of mental health

While telehealth isn’t a new concept, it’s increasingly becoming a more popular option for delivering behavioral healthcare services.

In fact, 75 percent of healthcare executives believe telemedicine has the potential to transform the standard of care for behavioral health and psychiatry.

The advancement of this accessible technology could not have come at a better time. People with behavioral health problems face a growing number of daunting obstacles that prevent them from receiving the effective care they need – from finances to clinician shortages to the mere unwillingness to seek treatment due to stigma. With telehealth, primary care physicians – nearly half of which treat mental health conditions – now have another viable option: online cognitive behavioral therapy, or iCBT.

iCBT is the use of cognitive and behavioral techniques that are typically used in face-to-face therapy for treating mental health issues. The online version is composed of education, skills training, activities and exercises to promote the application of new knowledge and coping skills. It does this through structured modules of content that are delivered using text, pictures, animations, audio files and videos – all of which can be done anytime, from the comfort and privacy of the patient’s own home.

Here’s five reasons why online cognitive behavioral therapies are the future of mental health:

1. Ease of access
Patients who cannot access standard healthcare services – whether they suffer from other heath conditions and are prohibited from travel or don’t have access to transportation – can access iCBT anytime, from any location. From a provider’s perspective, the ability to enroll patients’ immediately and identify a need rather than having them call or schedule an appointment, also promotes continuity of care and increases clinical workflow. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals leveraging web-based therapy are more likely to remain engaged in face-to-face therapies when online treatments are used as a supplement.

2. Alleviates stigma and privacy concerns
For many individuals, sharing intimate feelings with a stranger makes them incredibly uncomfortable. While younger generations are typically more open to face-to-face therapeutic interventions, for many, including those in the Baby Boomer generation, there is a stigma attached to mental health and a desire to keep problems private.

It was nearly 20 years ago when the U.S. Surgeon Generallabeled stigma as “perhaps the biggest barrier to mental health care.” Further, according to a surveyof nearly 600 adults over the age of 60 in rural North Carolina who were asked why they didn’t seek mental health treatment for their conditions – the majority responded, “I should not need help.”

Privacy issues are also a concern for people wanting or needing to seek treatment for mental health. In rural communities, for example, residents may actually know the behavioral healthcare specialist personally – if the community is even lucky enough to have one. In larger communities, patients might be hesitant to share personal information that makes them vulnerable to a stranger or question whether the practitioner abides by HIPAA standards.

While as a society we still have a long way to go in terms of eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness, iCBT can be a more appealing option for those individuals too embarrassed to seek treatment.

3. Lower cost of care for providers, payers and patients
In the treatment of mild to moderate mental health conditions, iCBT platforms demonstrate the ability to offer services to six times as many patients than other care models, while generating the same outcomes. This has allowed healthcare providers to offer iCBT programs across their entire population, while minimizing valuable resources and better enabling hospitals to triage patients.

For patients, online therapy also offers a less expensive option than in-person therapy. Typically, iCBT is a low-intensity intervention where patients can move through the online content at a self-administered pace, reducing the amount of clinical support time required. In addition to the cost of a face-to-face therapy session, iCBT eliminates the need for patients to take time off from work during business hours, as well as the drive time to and from a specialists’ office.

Eventually, online therapy can help ease the strain put on emergency services for the treatment of behavioral health, which all too often serves as the first line of care for patients without insurance.

4. Addressing the clinician shortage
Fifty six percent of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment and a nationwide clinician shortage is a key part of the problem – particularly in rural areas, where the majority of American’s live. Some states, such as Alabama, have a 1 to 260 clinician-to-patient ratio. Lengthy wait times – even in major cities – also pose as a significant challenge. Patients in Boston, for example, have to wait up to 66 days on average to see a doctor for a traditional in-clinic visit. To adequately address demand, at least 5.9Kmore mental health professionals are needed in the U.S.

For patients – especially those in need of immediate treatment, iCBT eliminates wait times for a face-to face appointment, granting immediate access to care. Further, numerous clinical studies have shown online therapy solutions to be equally effective as face-to-face interventions.

5. New care models are scalable and easily integrate into existing healthcare systems
iCBT allows providers and payers to offer scalable solutions that have a high degree of efficacy. There are numerous online therapy solutions that can be customized to meet the individual needs of health systems and their populations, with the ability to easily integrate with existing technologies. These solutions can be used throughout the care pathway and enhance the patient-doctor experience and results. Developers of iCBT solutions have made the integration simple and user experience intuitive to help promote adoption and effective results.

In an age of widespread web and cellular coverage, internet-based programs transcend geography, reaching any web-enabled device, anywhere. Whether someone lives in a skyscraper or on a farm, where doctors are plentiful or scarce, help for mental illness is readily accessible. iCBT offers clinically validated, easy to integrate, scalable solutions to health systems to address the waiting lists and access issues at the core of behavioral health delivery across the U.S.

Student Loan Debt Negatively Impacts Mental Health, Notes Ameritech Financial

Nearly two out of three 18- to 24-year-olds worry each month about paying their bills and, of those, more than 80 percent said it negatively impacted their mental health. Recently, global online health firm SilverCloud studied nearly 2,000 participants and found that money worries about debt and their financial future caused anxiety and hopelessness. Among factors driving these anxieties are college students who are food and housing insecure and those who have accumulated student loan debt. It is no wonder that, with more than 44 million Americans owning more than $1.5 trillion, so many are experiencing poor mental health outcomes. Ameritech Financial, a document preparation company, assists those overwhelmed by student loan debt in finding, applying for and maintaining enrollment in federal programs, such as income-driven repayment plans (IDRs) that can possibly reduce monthly payments, hopefully reducing anxiety and better-allowing clients to focus on their lives, not just their finances.

“Our young people are facing financial challenges right now and it makes sense that their mental health suffers,” said Tom Knickerbocker, executive vice president of Ameritech Financial. “We can help those struggling with student loan debt find the right federal program, such as an IDR, based on income and family size, that might lower their monthly payment enough to improve their financial and mental health.”

Nearly 84 percent of those with money worries said their debt and financial problems had caused them anxiety about their future. Many of these also said they experienced low moods or feelings of hopelessness. The average college student now spends more time at work than in the classroom. These financial pressures reduce leisure time and recreational opportunities as students pick up more hours to try to stay afloat in college. Under these types of stresses, mental health declines are both alarming and predictable.

Of those interviewed, 71 percent believed that people who are suffering from poor mental health are less able to manage their financial challenges. Unfortunately, this means that those who are under financial stress have poorer mental health outcomes. These individuals then have a more difficult time managing their financial challenges. This self-perpetuating spiral of despair can be debilitating. Fortunately, there are more mental health options available, especially online behavioral health companies. There are also options available to those overburdened by student loan debt. Ameritech Financial expertly guides clients through what some feel is an overly complex process of securing the right IDR that might even end in forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of enrollment.

“Unfortunately, we can’t directly help those with mental health issues,” said Knickerbocker. “But we may be able to help with one of the underlying financial conditions that may drive mental health issues — student loan debt.”

Providers told to tackle debt damaging mental health

The majority of the UK population have suffered with their mental health as a result of debt and financial difficulties, according to a national health study.

In a YouGov survey, 61 per cent of respondents claimed debt had negatively affected their mental health and 59 per cent predicted the number of people struggling with debt will rise over the next decade.

The survey was commissioned by health tech company SilverCloud Health to mark the 10-year anniversary of the global financial crisis and found an expectation that financial institutions address the relationship between debt and mental health.

Of the 1,962 participants interviewed, 42 per cent believed financial institutions should be responsible for supporting the mental wellbeing of customers in financial difficulty with an emphasis on providing online mental health resources to those in debt.

The survey found 71 per cent of respondents believe people suffering from poor mental health are less able to effectively manage financial difficulties.

In recent years the Financial Conduct Authority has demonstrated an increased interest in how firms are treating vulnerable clients, including those struggling with poor mental health, and is expected to implement further assessment early next year.

Ken Cahill, chief executive of SilverCloud, said he hopes more financial institutions will work to provide services which are mindful or supporting customer mental health.

He said: “The results of this British survey clearly demonstrates that British mental health has greatly suffered over the past decade as a result of financial difficulty stemming from the global crisis.”

Dr Thomas Richardson, psychologist and co-designer of SilverCloud’s mental health programme ‘Space From Money Worries’, said financial difficulties and mental health problems are often incorrectly treated separately.

He said: “Financial difficulties and mental health problems are often part of the same problem, but most support options treat them individually, offering debt advice separately from mental health help.

“So, for example, you might be offered a debt advice appointment but if you are so anxious you cannot face it then it will not help.”

Dr Richardson said the root psychological mechanisms which lead to a cycle of financial difficulties and poor mental health must be addressed.

He added: “The negative thinking patterns which prevent you tackling your debt, the worry and avoidance which stops you seeking financial help and the impulse spending which digs you deeper into a debt hole.”

Anna Sofat, founder at Addidi Wealth, said she feels there is definitely a link between mental and financial wellbeing so the survey findings should not be a surprise to anyone in the financial industry.

She said: “What is surprising is that the link and the appalling statistics, that 25 per cent of people in the UK have no savings at all and 1 in 10 spend more than they earn, reported by Skipton Building Society in March, are not used by the regulator or government to determine societal benefit or economic output.

“I am hoping that as impact investing becomes more mainstream, the impact of debt products on communities will be used to make investment judgement about individual companies.”

Half of Irish people were ‘psychologically affected’ by the economic crash

Over half of Irish people reported a decline in their mental health as a result of the economic crash 10 years ago, a new survey suggests.

Out of those who felt their mental health was impacted by the downturn, 17 per cent said it deteriorated “significantly” and 14 per cent said they had thought about suicide as a result.

Forty two per cent of those whose health was affected by the crash reported sleep problems and 28 per cent said they received professional psychological help.

One third said their mental health issues affected their ability to handle their financial problems effectively.

The national survey of 1,000 people was carried out by Amarach Researchand mental health technology company SilverCloud. It was released to mark the tenth anniversary of the 2008 bank bailout.

Dr Derek Richards, who led the research, said “ability turns to inability” when mental health issues are combined with financial problems.

He said it’s a “vicious cycle” where financial issues cause stress and anxiety which in turn prevents the sufferer from addressing their money problems.

“The type of behaviour they should be engaging in, like opening bills and talking to the bank, now becomes overwhelming.”

David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, which assists distressed home-owners, said his organisation ran a similar study a few years ago. It found a significant number of people had tried to kill themselves over mortgage problems.

“Our single biggest daily challenge is people’s mental health,” he said. “We’ve had a number of clients who have taken their own lives.”

He said the issues don’t just affect the person holding the debt. “It impacts on their family’s mental health and their actual physical health and their relationships.”

Mr Hall said the Government, the health service and the banks have not considered the mental health consequences of the crash and its aftermath, although he says a number of bankers and TDs admit it is a major issue.

“I’ve got two people at the moment who have attempted to take their own lives. One is out of hospital, one is still in hospital.”

He said he has to “battle” with the bank to ensure it doesn’t call this person demanding repayment of their debt while they are in hospital following the suicide attempt.

According to the SilverCloud research, 57 per cent of people surveyed also said the financial crisis has made their generation more pessimistic.

Financial institutions should have “emotional support structures” to help vulnerable or distressed clients with financial problems, 66 per cent of respondents said.

Offering mental health supports to customers would benefit not just the customer but also the banks themselves, Dr Richards said. He pointed to research showing that businesses who support their employees health enjoy greater success.

“What we need is for financial institutions to consider the whole person and consider specifically those who get into difficultly.”

He said financial institutions must understand it’s not just their customer’s problem; it’s also their problem if the customer is unable to address their debt due to mental health issues.

48% of People have Experienced Poor Mental Health at Work

A major study into workplace wellbeing by mental health charity Mind has revealed that poor mental health at work is widespread, with half (48 per cent) of all people surveyed saying they have experienced a mental health problem in their current job.

The survey of more than 44,000 employees, as part of Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index, also revealed that only half of those who had experienced poor mental health had talked to their employer about it, suggesting that as many as one in four UK workers is struggling in silence.

In-depth analysis has revealed that offering managers proper support can make a huge difference. Managers who felt their employer supported their mental health at work, or actively built their skills in supporting team members with mental health problems, were far more likely to feel confident in promoting staff wellbeing.

Manager confidence, in turn, is closely linked with whether employees feel able to disclose. Those staff who felt their manager supported their mental health or could spot the signs that someone might be struggling were far more likely to say they would be able to talk about their mental health at work.

To support better mental health at work, it’s then clear that line managers must feel comfortable and confident supporting their employee’s mental health. Training line managers is an essential part of this.

Trystan works for Welsh Water Dwr Cymru. Last year he took time off work to help manage his depression. With mental health awareness training from Mind Cymru, his line manager Karen, was better able to support Trystan back into work.

Karen Rogers, Health and Safety Manager at Welsh Water Dwr Cymru said:

“I found the Mind training really useful and I know it has been for other managers as well. It enables us to look out for those behavioural changes in our colleagues and then have those conversations with them and support them if they are struggling with their mental health.”

Mind’s mental health training will help your managers get mental health support right at a team and individual level. They deliver in-house training as a cost-effective way to promote the mental wellbeing of your staff. Specifically designed for employers and is ideal for line managers and HR teams, Mind offer training on the following topics:

  • Managing mental health at work
  • Mental health awareness
  • Customer support and mental health
  • Emotional intelligence and resilience

Mind Cymru will be running their next public access course in Wales, at their Cardiff office on Wednesday 21 November 2018. The one day course, Managing Mental Health at Work, is suitable for anyone who manages staff, or finds themselves doing so informally. You’ll learn how to recognise when a staff member is struggling and how you can support them professionally.

You can also access Silvercloud Mental Health Awareness at Work, which offers employees at any level in your organisation with an introduction to mental health and well-being in the workplace – they’ll explore the difference between good and poor mental health, common mental health problems, stigma around mental health and access tips on how to look after their own mental health and support colleagues.

We all have mental health – sometimes it will be good and sometimes we will struggle. Where we are on this scale and how we are feeling may impact how we work. With better support and more understanding, many of us may feel better able to manage our mental health at work, leading to happier and more productive work environments.

Machine minds: can AI play a role in mental health therapy?

A welcome conversation surrounding mental health has arisen but as more people make the decision to reach out, too few find a supportive hand.
Not a week passes without a report on Ireland’s mental health system, where lengthy waiting lists, staff shortages and inadequate facilities are the rule rather than the exception. Minister of State with special responsibility for mental health Jim Daly recently announced plans to pilot mental health “web therapy”; signalling a growing recognition of the need for novel approaches.

The capabilities of technology in the mental health sphere continue to flourish and developing therapeutic applications based upon systems driven by artificial intelligence (AI), particularly chatbots, is one arena that’s rapidly expanding. Yet, if you needed to open up, would you reach out to a robot?

Bot benefits
While not specifically focused on AI, a study from the Applied Research for Connected Health (Arch) centre at UCD shows 94 per cent of Irish adults surveyed would be willing to engage with connected mental health technology.
Study co-author Dr Louise Rooney, a postdoctoral research fellow at Arch, says AI-based systems with a research and a patient-centred focus could be beneficial.

“I don’t think AI is the answer to everything or that it could fully replace therapy intervention but I think there’s a place for it at every juncture through the process of treatment; from checking in, to remote monitoring, even down to people getting information,” she says.
The latest Mental Health Commission report shows waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services can reach 15 months. Rooney believes AI-based therapy could be particularly useful for young people who “respond very well to connected mental health technology”. The anonymity of such platforms could also break down barriers for men, who are less likely to seek help than women.
Prof Paul Walsh from Cork Institute of Technology’s department of computer science feels that AI-driven tools can “improve the accessibility to mental health services” but won’t fully replace human therapy.

“For those who are vulnerable and need help late at night, there’s evidence to show [therapy chatbots using AI and NLP] can be an effective way of calming people,” says Walsh, who is currently researching how to build software and machine learning systems for people with cognitive disorders. “If someone’s worried or stressed and needs immediate feedback, it’s possible to give real-time response and support without visiting a therapist.”
Professor of psychiatry at Trinity College Dr Brendan Kelly says AI-based platforms such as chatbots can help people to take control of their wellbeing in a positive manner.

“They can help people to take the first step into an arena that may be scary for them but I feel there will come a point that this is combined with, or replaced by, a real therapist,” adds the consultant psychiatrist based at Tallaght Hospital.
Privacy concerns Using AI-driven mental health therapy doesn’t come without concerns, one being privacy.

“Clearly it’s a very important issue and people shouldn’t use something that compromises their privacy but it’s not a deal-breaker,” says Kelly. “There are ways to ensure privacy which must be done but [fears and challenges] shouldn’t sink the boat.”
Being completely transparent with users about data collection and storage is key, Rooney adds.

Whether AI can determine someone’s ability to consent to therapy is another potential caveat raised by Rooney. However, she feels that forming “watertight legislation” for this technology and ensuring it’s backed by research can help to overcome this and other potential pitfalls.

While most current tools in this field focus on mental wellbeing and not severe problems, Walsh raises the potential of false negatives should AI decide somebody has a chronic illness. To avoid this, it’s important to keep a human in the loop.

“Many machine-learning systems are really hard to analyse to see how they make these judgements,” he adds. “We’re working on ways to try to make it more amenable to inspection.”

As potentially anybody can engineer a system, Walsh recommends avoiding anything without a “vast paper trail” of evidence.
“These will have to go through rigorous clinical trials,” he says. “We need policing and enforcement for anything making medical claims.”
Humans could become attached to a therapy chatbot, as was the case with Eliza, a chatbot developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1960s. However, Walsh doubts they will ever be as addictive or as great a threat as things like online gambling.

While the sentiment that AI-based therapy will assist rather than replace human therapy is quite universal, so is the view it can have a great impact.
“Achieving optimum mental health involves being open to all different ingredients, mixing it up and making a cake. AI can be part of that,” says Rooney.
If well regulated, Walsh says AI can augment humans in terms of treating people.

“I’m hopeful that benefits would be accentuated and the negatives or risks could be managed,” says Kelly. “The fact that it’s difficult and complex doesn’t mean we should shy away, just that we must think how best to capture the benefits of this technology.”

Brains behind the bots
Stanford psychologist and UCD PhD graduate Dr Alison Darcy is the brains behind Woebot: a chatbot combining artificial intelligence and cognitive behavioural therapy for mental health management.

“The goal is to make mental health radically accessible. Accessibility goes beyond the regular logistical things like trying to get an appointment,” explains the Dublin native, who conducted a randomised control trial of Woebot before launching. “It also includes things like whether it can be meaningfully integrated into everyday life.”

Darcy is clear that Woebot isn’t a replacement for human therapy, nor will he attempt to diagnose. In the interest of privacy, all data collected is treated as if users are in a clinical study.

Not intended for severe mental illness, Woebot is clear about what he can do. If he detects someone in crisis, Woebot declares the situation is beyond his reach and provides helplines and a link to a clinically-proven suicide-prevention app.

Originally from Wexford, Máirín Reid has also harnessed the capabilities of AI in the mental health sphere through Cogniant. Founded in Singapore with business partner Neeraj Kothari, it links existing clinicians and patients to allow for non-intrusive patient monitoring between sessions.
It’s currently being utilised by public health providers in Singapore with the aim of preventing relapses and aiding efficiency for human therapists. As Cogniant is recommended to users by human therapists, decisions on consent capabilities are formed by humans.

“Our on-boarding process is very clinically-driven,” says Reid. “We’re not there to replace, but to complement.”

While not intended for high-risk patients, Cogniant has an escalation process that connects any highly-distressed users to their therapist and provides supports. There’s also a great emphasis on privacy and being transparent from the offset.
“Clinicians are saying it drives efficiency and they can treat patients more effectively. Patients find it’s non-intrusive and not judgmental in any form.”