1 in 4 people will suffer from some sort of mental health problem this year. Studies published by the Mental Health Foundation and Conversations in Clinical Neuroscience show that depression is the most common condition, but general anxiety and stress are also thought to affect between 33-38% of the global population.
Research shows that mental health related illnesses are on the rise too. A report published by the WHO listed mental health problems as the fourth leading cause of the global disease burden, and goes on to point out that they are expected to rank second by 2020 - outstripping everything except ischaemic heart disease.
These are sobering statistics, but they don’t necessarily mean that we’ll all be struggling with crippling depression in a few years. In fact, many people struggling with a mental health condition are struggling with mild to moderate issues, rather than severe depression.
People with a mild to moderate mental health issue may be struggling with low mood, anxiety, or have trouble managing their stress levels; but for the most part are able to meet their daily obligations, be that with work, family or friends.
Cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to be highly effective in such cases. Unfortunately, most mental health services are overburdened, and struggle to meet the demand for hands-on therapy and advice. With demand surpassing supply, it is important that the most serious cases are prioritised - leaving many without access to treatment.
We spoke to Henrik Haaland Jahren - Clinical Psychologist and founder of Braive - about how his company is using modern technology to tackle these challenges, through improving access to CBT for people whose issues might otherwise be left untreated.
Addressing the problem
In recent years, a number of startups like Braive have been trying to improve access to mental healthcare services by using the internet to tackle these problems.
Speaking to Henrik - who launched Braive in 2015 - it’s clear that these services can reach people who may not feel they qualify for more traditional face-to-face therapy or just do not have that option.
Services like Braive are not just aimed at people suffering from mild mental illness though. Because smartphones and tablet computers are now very common, e-counselling services can act as an essential lifeline for people who are nervous about seeking help, or those who cannot access one-to-one support in person.
So might we see online services like Braive replace traditional therapy one day? Henrik thinks not, but he sees an opportunity in the complementary nature of online therapy. “[It’s a way of] bridging the gap between the number of providers and the people in need of help”, he tells us.
Braive then can be viewed as a kind of ‘first step’; designed to help people who want to try self-management of their condition, or simply learn more about what’s causing it, before considering help from a doctor or therapist.
To this end, Braive have begun working with hospitals and doctors in an attempt to combine traditional one-to-one therapy with modern, tech-driven counselling services. Henrik hopes their early proof of concept study into this area will result in improved outcomes for all patients.
The benefits associated with self-help programmes like Braive can be significant. An article published in Professional Psychology Research and Practice (pdf) found that technology startups like Braive - which leverage smartphones and tablets - presented many benefits for both clients and practitioners.
If you’re struggling with a mild mental illness, or frequently find that you’re feeling stressed out by work, school or your living situation, then engaging with a service like Braive can certainly be beneficial.
What does Braive offer?
Braive is an online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) service offering programmes for people suffering from mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and work-related stress. It provides an alternative source of help for people with low-level mental health disorders who:
- Might not need to see a doctor
- May feel they don’t have time to see a doctor
- Are reluctant to seek help in person
- Are unable to access mental healthcare
You don’t necessarily need to be suffering from a mental health condition to benefit from Braive’s iCBT programmes.
Students and young professionals, feeling increasingly stressed due to the pressures of modern life are also likely to benefit from the CBT toolset, which can give you the ability to regulate stress, resolve conflict and perform at your best amidst all the noise.
Braive offers fifteen iCBT programmes, ranging from mental skills training to those designed specifically to deal with mixed anxiety and depression. Their informative live-illustration videos provide an effective means of passing on important skills and methods for dealing with the stressful situations we all encounter in daily life.
How does it work?
First time visitors to Braive are encouraged to take a free Mental Health Check, which only takes a few minutes to complete. From here, the website will suggest one or more programmes tailored to your challenges.
If you want to seek help in person following your Mental Health Check, you can also print your results to show them to your doctor, which will provide them with indicative diagnosis and can help them in eventual referral processes.
The programmes themselves contain a number of useful videos, activities, homework assignments and weekly check-ups which can be completed online at a time and place that suits you. Each programme costs €75, and can take anywhere from six to twelve weeks to complete.
If you’re suffering from mild to moderate depression or anxiety, Braive is an affordable option which can give you the tools needed to help manage your symptoms.
And even if you don’t feel like you have a mental health disorder, the courses are still great way to learn skills and techniques that can help you in everyday life.