We have come a long way from the inhumane mental health treatments of the past, such as asylums promoting forced segregation, insulin shock therapy, and lobotomies. Now, we’re using various innovative and thoroughly researched practices and treatments designed to support those experiencing mental illness.
Even in recent years, the world of mental health has changed, and researchers are continually exploring new products and techniques to ensure people in need have the support they need to manage their illnesses. However, some new mental health innovations are undoubtedly more advanced than others. Below, we explore some of the most exciting in recent years.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, also known as EMDR therapy, is a non-drug and non-hypnosis psychotherapy procedure therapists use to help clients treat symptoms like anger, guilt, depression, and post-traumatic reactions.
In an EMDR therapy session, the therapist asks the client to concentrate on a strong memory or emotion while following their therapist’s moving finger with their eyes. It’s believed that the rapid eye movement, which we see in people while they dream, has the potential to speed up the healing process.
Studies exploring the benefits of EMDR therapy have been promising, with participants believed to have maintained the therapeutic gains of their EMDR treatment at least 18 months later and even improved on all standardised measures. In comparison, the control group’s scores deteriorated. The study supported the idea that EMDR would ‘reflect better resolution of trauma symptoms compared to those who received routine individual therapy.’
Psychedelics for Psychiatric Disorders
Psychedelics like LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin have long been seen as recreational drugs for partygoers to enjoy on the weekends, but they are now being researched as potential treatment options for mental health disorders.
Studies exploring psilocybin show that this fungus offers various potential medical applications, especially in the realm of depression, end-of-life mood disorders, and addiction medication. Studies looking at LSD are also promising, with it being described as a potential therapeutic agent in psychiatry, particularly in treating alcoholism. Research into MDMA is still in its infancy, but it is currently under investigation for psychotherapy use in anxiety disorders and possibly depression.
Antidepressants don’t work for everyone. In fact, research suggests that antidepressants can improve symptoms in approximately 20 out of 100 people. However, those experiencing treatment-resistant depression can potentially be given new hope in the form of antidepressants that work via different mechanisms.
The FDA and European Medicines Agency have both approved a new drug called Esketamine, which is related to the drug ketamine. Esketamine can potentially treat treatment-resistant depression and might lay the foundation for a new class of antidepressants in the future.
Social Media Trends
If you’ve ever felt like you’re being watched or tracked on social media, you might be right. Data science tools like artificial intelligence and natural language processing are being used by government and non-government agencies and tech companies to identify people with anxiety, depression and those at risk of suicide.
Facebook partnered with suicide prevention organisations in 2015 to explore how to prevent suicide. It started with a feature that allowed people to report posts discussing possible suicidal thoughts or self-harm but was further developed to allow people to report Facebook Messenger content and live streams.
Once a post or live stream has been flagged, the Facebook Community Operations Team reviews the post and, if necessary, contacts the person to offer support. Twitter also has a similar feature in which users can flag content, and a team will reach out to the person to provide support and encouragement to seek help for themselves.
Before the advanced digital age, people experiencing mental health concerns and feelings of overwhelm typically had to make an in-person appointment with a mental health specialist. Getting help could be complicated, especially as those needing assistance had to make sure they could take time off work, find transportation, and arrange childcare to attend a single appointment. Essentially, the logistics of in-person appointments meant that not everyone who needed mental health support would seek it out.
However, that started to change with the introduction of telehealth services, the progress of which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, those in need of mental health services could make appointments and attend them from the comfort of their own homes. In the United States, a number of behavioural health services are available via telehealth, including:
– One-on-one therapy
– Text therapy
– Group therapy
– Mental health screening
– Anxiety and depression monitoring
– Medication prescribing and monitoring
Appointments take place via video call on a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and some might simply be over a voice call or via text message. Some mental health service providers also have apps that allow clients to make, change, and cancel appointments and utilise various helpful tools to ensure they have help available to them between their scheduled appointments.
meditation describes bringing your attention to the present moment without judgment or interpretation. It involves relaxing the body and mind to reduce stress through guided imagery and breathing methods in a comfortable and safe environment.
While sitting still and not thinking about the past or future might not seem like an effective way to improve your mental health, current studies suggest otherwise. Something as simple as focusing on the present moment might reduce anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and even help people cope with pain. Researchers believe mindfulness meditation can potentially reduce mental health symptoms overall and enhance people’s quality of life.
It’s also not something that generally costs money, takes up much time, or is complicated to do. Those interested in exploring mindfulness meditation to improve mental health can take the following steps to embark on their new mindfulness journey:
1. Take a seat somewhere comfortable and pay attention to what your legs are doing
2. Straighten your upper body and rest the palms of your hands on your legs in a natural position
3. Soften your gaze and drop your eyes downward or close them
4. Pay attention to the physical sensation of breathing, such as the rise and fall of your chest and the air moving through your mouth or nose
5. Notice when your mind wanders and return it to the breath
6. Repeatedly move your mind back to the breath each time it wanders
7. Slowly open your eyes and notice how you feel before returning to your daily activities
Mental health best practices and treatment options are ever-changing, and researchers are working hard to find practical solutions for those who need them the most. If you require mental health support, reach out to a local service provider and consider exploring some of these innovative treatment options above.