This week, TheNewsMarket celebrates Mental Health Awareness Week, which has fallen during a global lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the disease itself, mental health has been a leading global issue with depression and anxiety numbers rising dramatically as people are forced to stay at home.
People are now isolated, with little interaction with the outside world, which may lead to a combination of fatigue, mood swings and sleep disorders, which are serious issues that need to be tackled in modern society.
However, technology has enabled us to remain connected with loved ones, through new ways of communication, from video calls to smart phone applications, helping people get through these challenging times.
Here are a few examples of how technology can support and raise awareness of mental health around the world.
There are now countless smartphone applications which are targeted at helping people get physically healthy. In comparison, there are much less that are focused solely on mental health, helping people cope with such things as anxiety and depression.
However, these mental health apps have been proven to help both consumers suffering from these issues and also health experts such as therapists, through useful behavioural data. During Covid-19, these apps have become vital and are going the extra mile to support those most in need.
For example, English-American online healthcare company Headspace, which specialises in meditation for the masses, is now free for people who are unemployed in the US.
Although there are over 2,000 registered meditation apps on the market today, Headspace is one of the only ones committed to advancing the field of mindfulness meditation through clinically-validated research.
The company is undertaking research studies with large national institutions that could be among the largest mindfulness meditation trials ever conducted.
Through this research and development, apps like Headspace have built leading platforms for mental well-being and are providing services to customers free-of-charge in this time of crisis.
Many people are divided by the impact of social media, with many pros and cons of a global platform of, fundamentally, people showing off.
However, there are many benefits of social media, especially in times like these. For one, it has allowed online communities to share their thoughts and feelings, bringing people together who may be experiencing the same issues. Some good examples include Hilary Hendel, Natasha Tracy and Chessie King.
From a consumer perspective, this can inspire healthy lifestyle changes if, of course, it is done correctly. There are many areas of social media that have negative impacts that must be avoided.
Social media can be used as a motivational tool to achieve healthy lifestyle goals, whether that is promoting mental health or recovering from addiction through different social support systems.
Beyond this, social platforms allow medical professionals, from therapists to psychiatrists, to collect and share data through an online community. An example of this is Babylon, which has overcome the difficulties of going to the doctors in lockdown by bringing patients and doctors together.
Streaming services have hit an all-time high; and we’re not talking about Netflix or Spotify. YouTube, for example, has allowed people from all walks of life to share their experiences with millions of viewers across the world, from home concerts to living room workouts.
With people stuck at home bored, the demand for entertainment and physical activity has skyrocketed as it is scientifically-proven that this type of interaction helps improve mental health, not to mention the physical benefits.
Londoner Joe Wicks has propelled himself onto the global stage with his daily ‘PE lessons’, inviting millions of people to his living room for a virtual workout. Originally for school children, the stream has quickly become an approachable platform for many to get fit, which has been a leading factor to many peoples’ sanity over the last few months.
Despite the lock-down, streams like this may actually see a rise in overall fitness for consumers, who may be getting their first taste of a fitness routine.
Podcasts are currently experiencing a golden age, with many people listening to them during their commutes. Today this isn’t the case, as people are stuck at home, but platforms like Spotify and Apple continue to grow in popularity.
With many in lockdown, it has created yet another opportunity to listen to a range of new podcasts, that cover any topic imaginable.
There are many podcasts aimed at mental health, from Ferne Cotton’s Happy Place to Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail, which spark discussion about mental-wellbeing, challenges and even how to deal with failure.
Podcasts have the advantage over other forms of media as they are able to effectively break the fourth wall and create a more relaxed and personable discussion with relatable content.
With many podcasts on offer to suit anyone’s needs, this is surely a platform that will continue to grow in strength and popularity.
Perhaps the biggest user spike during the lockdown, video call services have become vital to communication with people in different households.
Being face-to-face with someone, be that colleagues or family, is important for mental health, which can be seriously affected with the lack of human interaction.
The likes of Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp have seen the age demographic expand, with young children to the elderly using it for their only form of social interaction at the moment.
In fact, many have used these platforms to speak with more people and perhaps those that they haven’t been in contact with as much as they have liked in the past.
Finally, the potential of video calls is not limited to lockdown, but the future of meetings and conversations, bringing people together wherever they are in the world.
These are just five examples of how technology is supporting and combating mental health trends around the world, creating a new age of online support.
Smartphones, tablets and laptops have enabled the public, specialists and researchers new ways of accessing support and data, helping society further understand the importance of mental health.
So join us at TheNewsMarket in celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week by using the hashtag #MentalHealthAwareness