Workplace depression, stress and anxiety are real issues, with companies struggling to find effective solutions. However, technology and innovative platforms such as gamification, big data analytics and startup technologies are helping.
All of Me is one such e-mental health solution, which recently won the recent Start It Up competition in Australia.
Mental disorders are estimated to cost the global economy $2.5 trillion per year in rehabilitation. It is no wonder businesses are looking to innovation for preventative measures. All of Me Founder and widely published researcher Dr Susanne Bahn says, “the key to effective e-health is applying technology to create easy to use, palatable solutions with a training component, identification and organisation-wide reporting".
Dr Bahn says the applications "offer early intervention scenario based mental health training for the Workplace", and can be used on any smart device with a wi-fi connection.
Declining mental health in workplaces and schools is a worldwide issue. The average cost to rehabilitate a worker on a mental health claim in Australia is $23,600, with 14.8 weeks off work (ABS, 2016). There are more costs to the community as a whole, who often pick up the pieces when a person is encountering poor mental health symptoms.
Research conducted by PwC (2014) showed that for every dollar spent on effective workplace mental health solutions, there is an average return of $2.30 to the organisation. Solutions need to be tailored to support the individual managing their own mental wellbeing, to protect them by making it anonymous, and to provide clear information on where to seek help and support (Harvey, et al, 2014).
The All of Me App covers topics such as workplace bullying, change and burnout and self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Part of its effectiveness is achieved by providing animated scenarios that escalate into worsening mental health decline and offer helpful coping strategies and advice on where to seek help.
Dr Bahn points out, “there is a global move towards providing training via e-learning platforms and delivering information in short 15 minute ‘bites’... partly driven by millennials who want training that is relevant, engaging and to the point. To be effective we deliver ‘self-paced’ training to be accessible, when and where they want it, underpinned by gamification and fun and available on multiple mobile devices.
De-identified data indicates teams with high stress, anxiety and depression levels. This previously unavailable data assists employers to develop and tailor their mental health programs and to focus them on groups with the greatest need.”
Time away from the job hits the bottom line in reduced productivity, but digital technology can assist complex health problems and remain compliant. Persistence Market Research predicts that globally, revenue from subscription (cloud-based) mental health solutions is projected to expand by 24.2% in 2015-2021, accounting for over 71.5% share of the overall market.
The same technology tackling workplace stress and mental health ports well to other high risk areas as well. Dr Bahn was recently a finalist in Telstra Women in Business, and was recognised for adapting the platform to help early intervention in schools and for parents.
She explained, “All of Me Parent provides access to the DASS-21 scale supported by illustrations. The Parent and School Apps contain information on typical mental health problems for those categories [and] provides links to additional information on each topic".
The anonymity factor could be even more important in Asia where mental health is still heavily stigmatized. Its dated statistics are hard to find, but a 2009 study published in the British medical journal found around 173 million Chinese suffer from a mental disorder.
The Director of the Shanghai Mental Health Center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University estimated that only 5% of people with a mental illness in China have received psychiatric care from a professional. Those figures have no doubt grown substantially since that survey and I would expect much of Asia has similar challenges.
All of Me was designed to be global, being image centric. Any language can be overlaid, and discussions have already commenced to meet demand with a Japanese version.
Closing out the loop, e-health companies like this are linking to real world rehabilitation services to balance with the global trend to more self-help. I expect that as the quality and pricing of virtual reality evolves, then virtual reality scenarios will also become prevalent in this sector. Other developments will see the blending of online training in areas such as mindfulness and meditation.
The clear advantages of e-mental health in accessibility, reporting, anonymity and cost will see this area continue to grow rapidly. Confidentiality is critical, so the rapid advances in online security and user privacy will most likely boost adoption to broader communities.