The Digital Mental Health Industry: New Problems, New Solutions, New Practices
Ethics Grand Rounds:
As our day-to-day lives are increasingly reliant upon (and enmeshed with) digital platforms, it is not surprising that the ways we address and manage our health generally, and mental health in particular, are increasingly digitized as well. Our culture’s generally favorable attitude toward digital solutions for everyday problems has led to the emergence of a digital mental health industry, which includes smartphone applications (“apps”) and telemental health services.
New and largely unregulated, the digital mental health industry presents its toolsets as affordable and a cost and time-effective alternative to many of the problems and barriers associated with the treatment of mental illness: clinician and specialist scarcity, treatment unaffordability, and the geographic remoteness of rural patients. Through a combination of fieldwork and interview analysis, this research addresses these claims and the future of the industry, with findings that are relevant to medical practitioners, technologists, researchers, mental health advocates and activists, and others whose work explores the connections between technology and medicine.
Emma Bedor Hiland, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication Studies, University of Minnesota