State of mental health and how technologies like virtual reality can help

The legacy of Covid-19 lingers even beyond 2021. Healthcare is undoubtedly the sector that has been irreversibly changed by the effects of the global epidemic. With significant advancements in technology and methodologies needed to meet the massive demand for healthcare access and the increasing digitalization of health information, healthcare has evolved in unique ways to continue to provide the best level of service. In addition, important discoveries and developments are likely to strengthen the healthcare sector by the end of 2022.

As we move forward, keeping an eye on the technology trends impacting healthcare in 2022 is vital. While legacy technology and architecture are critical to the development of modern hospitals and care centers, we need to evaluate how old systems can merge with newer technology or be replaced by more reliable systems in the future. Emphasis should be placed on improved efficiency, effectiveness, productivity and safety without sacrificing reliability or accessibility.

The mental health situation

With an increasing number of people experiencing mental illness at some point, expanding access to health care is critical. In addition, the most efficient forms of therapy are educating patients in everyday situations, which is time-consuming and therefore costly.

Psychological therapies delivered in virtual reality (VR) represent a viable solution. The technology is moving beyond the popular perception of being a gateway to immersive gaming and virtual lives, and is increasingly being felt across major industries, including healthcare.

The application of virtual reality in mental health care

VR environments produce immersive representations of real-world situations, allowing users to travel and interact with specialists around the world. One can be transported to places and meet people that they would not otherwise have access to, and these assignments can only be the therapy that would effectively address various mental health problems.

Importantly, while it is clear that a VR environment is a simulation, people react mentally and physiologically as they would in the corresponding real-life situation. As a result, any knowledge gained in VR can be used in the real world.

Some VR applications in mental health care are listed below:

Virtual therapists: Virtual reality can give patients access to virtual therapists almost anywhere in the world for the best counseling and hands-on activities. Virtual reality treatment (VRT) uses specially designed computers, visual immersion devices and artificially constructed environments to provide patients with a simulated experience that can be used to diagnose and treat psychiatric problems that cause problems for patients.

Simulated environments: Not everyone has access to outdoor environments. This is a public health concern as nature improves human health and well-being by reducing negative environmental stressors and providing salutogenic experiences. VR could provide patients with an optimal environment that they may not have in the real world. These are artificial environments populated with characters that would give the patients the proper interaction and provide them with much needed relief.

Virtual Activities: A variety of activities are often advised for good mental health. Patients can perform similar activities in a virtual environment using different technologies. Being able to influence events in a virtual world, especially under the supervision of a therapist, has many therapeutic possibilities. This has largely been used in exposure therapy for mental health.

Aside from exposure, VR can provide people with a space to learn and practice skills in a real-life environment. This has been shown to be effective in diseases such as autism, schizophrenia and neurocognitive problems.

The adaptability of VR treatments: Another advantage of VR is that it makes people more comfortable to create virtual representations of situations that are difficult for them in real life, because they realize that it is just a simulation. It’s also easy to experiment with things that might be too dangerous or embarrassing to try in real life. VR scenarios can also be rated in difficulty or even customized to the individual. The goal is to start with less stressful scenarios and work up as patients gain confidence.

VR provides one environment from which many modules for treating different diseases can be accessed. Be it phobias of spiders or other concerns including PTSD, anxiety and depression, psychosis or addiction. This eliminates the need for patients to search for multiple therapists in different locations.

Virtual Reality advisors can also operate without being involved in every VR session. VR therapy can help more patients get the care they need as soon as possible. Because of this, VR treatment is probably cheaper. Advances in VR hardware will make it more affordable and feasible to apply this technology in psychiatric services for the treatment of a wide variety of diseases in the near future. While it would be difficult to replace therapists, VR could lead to more people having access to treatment.



The above views are those of the author.


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