Covid threw up a lot of issues – our reliance on digital technology (DT) being one huge one.
Now that’s fine, if you happen to have the equipment, language, confidence and motivation to understand DT – but some people simply don’t (at the moment).
That’s a real shame – for all of us as a society – because (unless you’ve been living in a cave in deepest darkest Peru – yes, I see you in the distance) that’s the direction of traffic. Right? The digital? Digital consultations, apps and the like.
So we’re leaving a lot of people – people who have a mental health condition, for instance – behind and out of “it” – this brave new digital world – potentially shutting them out from crucial support now and in the future.
How do I know this? (apart from not living in a cave in deepest, darkest Peru)? I’ve been a mental health carer for years and worked hard to better the wonky world of mental healthcare using all my charms (depends on the day) and professional skills (these ebb and flow) and know-how (luckily this increases . . . or I’m vain enough to believe so) to make a wee bit of difference.
I normally start my “rant” by sharing one story: there’s at least 5 people who I know well who live “out there” who depend on one of those old, c****y pay phones/coin machines. No smart phones in sight!
Anyway, back to my beef: how can we get people who are afraid (or putting it more politely under-confident) of the digital more excited about using it in their everyday lives? Perhaps you’d like a few moments to chew on it? No – well here goes my three nuggets of wisdom:
- Give people (“patients” – and carers if they’ve been given the OK from the “patients” to have access to patient data) a choice. Do they want their meeting (eg with their psychiatrist – if they have one) using DT or would they prefer a face-to-face in a more formal healthcare setting?
- Give people control over their data and show them how their data is being kept private and confidential – safe from data breaches?
- Give people the opportunity to have human contact and be part of healthy healing environments.
Rethink Mental Illness and Nuffield Council of Bioethics produced a useful paper on DT from an ethics point of view in the mental health setting recently – it’s worth checking it out.
Finally (PS) I think it’s really important to remember that some mental health conditions will lend themselves to DT and innovations and others won’t. Someone might have a serious, complex mental health condition that really needs long-term human contact not a recent digital innovation like a mindfulness app (not that I’ve got anything against mindfulness aps – helping people be in the moment is great). But one size doesn’t fit all. Each person is unique and not to sound too cheesy about it Covid also taught us that we like our hugs.