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With the WHO recently announcing that 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health issues, it was only a matter of time before people started to look to technology for answers.

Our understanding of mental health has changed drastically over the years and as such, so has our ways of treating it. With our new understanding of mental health, are new technologies the answer to treating patients effectively?

We have discussed elsewhere on our blog the amazing ways that immersive technology has helped veterans recovering from PTSD, which you can read here. But can Virtual Reality (VR) help combat mental health issues more generally? Many experts seem to believe so.

 

Example of VR supporting mental health

A care home in Wales, for example, introduced VR headsets to its residents to engage with calming experiences (as well as Tom Jones concerts of-course!) alongside access to iPads and Amazon Echos.

As a result of this, they found that the residents’ need for antipsychotic drugs dropped to virtually non-existent levels. They also found that their emergency ambulance calls dropped by 27% in their first year using the VR headsets.

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How did the VR headsets help with mental wellbeing?

The headsets allowed the residents to visit their childhood villages, as well as to judge the local school’s Easter Bonnet competition. It has been such a success for the residents and their mental health that the home is now looking into ways to offer options, such as VR cruises and VR train rides.

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Are there any other benefits VR offers to mental health?

VR, however, has another trick up its sleeve with regards to mental health. It can be an invaluable tool in detecting mental health issues due to its ability to create very real feeling situations for the wearer without actually putting them in any physical danger.

This means that a doctor can see exactly how a patient reacts to certain situations giving the doctor the ability to potentially give clearer diagnoses while also taking out the element of subjectivity that is often found around some mental health diagnoses.

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Which specific mental health issues can virtual reality help with?

As our understanding of mental health has evolved and as our technological advancements have grown, this has meant that VR isn’t just a treatment for one mental illness anymore. It has expanded to include depression, anxiety, addictions and even eating disorders. The basic science remains the same, but VR technology allows patients to confront their biggest fears in a very realistic environment, while being observed and perhaps even coached by a medical professional.

In recent years, VR has also been used in the mental health world in a slightly different way. Diagnosis. Using the immersive nature of VR means that medical professionals can place a patient in a situation where they would expect certain behaviours to come to light if a person has a specific illness. Many researchers think that this is a better way to diagnose some illnesses than the traditional interview method which has been used when diagnosing conditions such as ADHD and autism.

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How do I find advice on creating a VR mental health tool?

If you would like more information about any of our medical projects and how we can help you with your company’s immersive tech needs, why not talk to us?

You can give us a message with our live chat function, request a callback on the form below, or just click here and jump to our contact form and we’ll give you a call back!

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