Monday, 9 January 2017

Theresa May makes a stand for mental health

Jacob Andrews
Today, Theresa May will give a speech about how her government plans to overhaul mental health services in the UK. This will include increased funding for community mental health services, as well as training for schools and employers about mental health, and improved online services allowing people to check their symptoms online.

This is great news for many who have suffered with inadequate support for mental health conditions, for instance those who have waited weeks, months or years to get access to talking therapies.

It is welcome news too that there is renewed interest in online support. Modern technology offers us many possibilities in terms of educating ourselves on mental health and empowering us to monitor our own wellbeing. Getting it right can be difficult, however. In 2013, the NHS started an online library of mental health apps, which was later shut down after it was found some of the appswere not secure.

Mrs. May will announce the introduction of online symptom checks. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of the established tests for mental health conditions are used to produce the new tests. One-time tests for mental health conditions are known to provide biased results - they require test-takers to reflect on their wellbeing over a period of two weeks or more, though memories of pastfeelings are influenced by present experience.

In CATCH at the University of Sheffield, we are exploring how technology can be used ona daily basis to detect mental health problems early, and whether this can be applied for older adults. Mrs. May’s new interest in mental health shows there is appetite for such innovation, and we will be watching how matters progress with interest.

Written by Jacob Andrews, PhD student in CATCH, University of Sheffield

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