Wellness Tech: New Tools for Enhancing Mental Well-being

The ongoing mental health crisis in the United States has reached unprecedented levels, causing significant challenges for mental wellness in the country. According to the APA’s 2023 Practitioner Pulse Survey, 52% of licensed psychologists are seeing an increase in the severity of symptoms among their patients, leading to more time spent treating each patient. However, more than half (56%) of psychologists also say they no longer have openings for new patients, with over 69% maintaining a waitlist with average wait times of three months for a new appointment. 

This shortfall in access to mental health services has driven the demand for innovative solutions to support mental well-being. Besides the emergence of specific wellness technologies, we’re also seeing a rise in accessible tech that can support patients in daily life and decrease their mental load. This article explores a few cutting-edge tools that are making a substantial impact on mental health care and daily life.

Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots

AI-powered chatbots are at the forefront of the wellness tech revolution. These tools offer 24/7 support, providing immediate assistance to individuals in need. In a previous post, we discussed the importance of maintaining open lines of communication with loved ones as a form of self-care and improving emotional wellness. However, not everyone has access to such support systems.

Digital companions like Woebot seek to address this, acting as an “automated conversational agent” or chatbot using evidenced-based approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). Woebot utilizes natural language processing to engage users in therapeutic conversations, helping users manage stress, anxiety, and depression. The anonymity and accessibility of these chatbots make them particularly appealing to those who may be hesitant to undergo traditional therapy.

Automated smart tools

Smart tools like robot vacuum cleaners and smartwatches are increasingly recognized for their contribution to mental health. For individuals battling depression, the Mayo Clinic highlights common symptoms like tiredness and a lack of energy that can make daily tasks feel overwhelming. This is where smart tools can come in handy.

Take the Bissell SpinWave robot vacuum cleaner. It has a scheduled cleaning feature that can be programmed via an app. Automating house cleaning can alleviate some of the burden associated with tedious tasks, allowing individuals to focus on self-care and recovery. Meanwhile, smartwatches can be used to create reminders for other mental health and self-care practices like meditating and drinking water, gamifying these tasks, and allowing them to feel less burdensome for individuals struggling with mental health issues. 

Prescription video games

Another innovative tool in the realm of mental health technology is prescription video games. EndeavorRX, developed by Akili Interactive, is the first FDA-approved video game designed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. EndeavorRX uses a specially designed algorithm to challenge a child’s cognitive functions, improving attention and focus through gameplay.

Clinical trials have shown that children who played the game for 25 minutes a day, five days a week for four weeks, showed marked improvements in their ADHD symptoms. The success of EndeavorRX opens the door for further development of prescription video games to address other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.

Conclusion

The mental health crisis in the US underscores the need for groundbreaking solutions to enhance mental well-being. AI chatbots, smart tools, and prescription video games are just a few examples of pioneering technology that offer significant mental health benefits. These tools not only provide accessible and immediate support but also empower individuals to take an active role in managing their mental health.

As the wellness tech revolution continues to evolve, it holds the potential to transform mental health care, making it more inclusive and effective for all. 

Article contributed by Roane Juliano

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