Scalable and accessible mental health for all

mental health diagnosis, KOA health

Nicola Hemmings, workplace scientist at Koa Health, and Dr Claire Vowell, lead psychologist, discuss how mental health conditions exist across a continuum

They also address what organisations can do to better support those who do not have a mental health diagnosis. Too often, mental health is regarded as binary—people are categorised as either mentally well or mentally unhealthy. This is a dangerous oversimplification. The reality is that mental health, much like physical health, exists across a range, with most of us falling somewhere in the middle.

While every individual has a baseline state of mental health, this state fluctuates in response to the circumstances life presents us with, moving towards or away from a state of mental wellness. All sorts of life events impact our mental health—from changes in the workplace and global events to the loss of a family pet.

Unfortunately, our existing model for mental health care really only addresses diagnosed mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. And even with a formal mental health diagnosis and a referral for services, the current shortage of mental health professionals in the NHS can mean wait times of 18 weeks or more to see a mental health specialist[1].

Existing care models don’t help those without a clinical mental health diagnosis

In England alone, there are 1.5 million people[2] waiting for treatment for mental health conditions through the NHS, but that doesn’t include the largest cohort of the general population—people who fall somewhere between mentally ill and mentally well. People who may be struggling, but aren’t at the point of seeking out (and may not qualify for) clinical care. For example, a young person who recently started a new job might have anxious thoughts about running meetings with their new colleagues. A parent working and raising two young children might feel deeply sad and stressed about money after a divorce.

While the individuals mentioned in our examples aren’t suffering from a diagnosed clinical condition, and wouldn’t necessarily even want clinical care, both could greatly benefit from some additional guidance and support. For people like these that fall in the subclinical category, i.e., the underserved middle, effective support is not only critical for positive outcomes—it has the potential to lessen the impact of, and possibly prevent future mental illness.

Because just as with physical health, we can take action and build habits to support and improve our mental health. Unfortunately, existing models for mental health care don’t often address preventative or maintenance care for people without a diagnosis. And with the current shortage of qualified professionals, they’re unlikely to expand to include subclinical care to support mental health in the near future.

So how can organisations help people who don’t have access or don’t feel comfortable seeking out clinical care for their mental health?

Could app-based solutions resolve gaps in mental health support at your organisation?

In nearly every industry, including mental health, in-person services are being supplemented and sometimes replaced altogether with technology. And while nothing can replace face-to-face care in cases where it’s required, this transition to smartphone-based services makes sense given that on average, people in the UK pick up their phones 94 times daily[3] and 71% say they never turn off their phones[4]. People are very comfortable with this sort of care — 1/3 of British patients prefer virtual and app-based care to face-to-face interactions[5].

But beyond being accessible and comfortable, there’s a growing body of evidence that supports the effectiveness of digital-first interventions, even for patients with diagnosed mental health conditions. Initial studies[6] have shown digital mental health support to be effective as a tool in stress management as well as in the treatment of depression, body

dysmorphic disorder, and anxiety, among other mental health difficulties. In our own Randomised Control Trial (RCT) of Koa Foundations, our employee wellbeing app, published in JMIR Mhealth UHealth, we saw significant improvements in overall wellbeing, anxious thoughts, and sleep quality in as little as 4 weeks of use.

But while exciting advances in technology are transforming the way we approach mental health care, organisations, many with limited experience in self-guided and digital-first mental health solutions, have been faced with the difficult challenge of determining which support mechanism will serve their employee or member population best—and selecting a tool is just the first step.

Does your organisation need help sourcing solutions for mental health and wellbeing?  Koa Health can help. Contact us at info@koahealth.com.

[1] https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/news-and-features/latest-news/detail/2021/10/06/workforce-shortages-in-mental-health-cause-painfully-long-waits-for-treatment

[2] https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/news-and-features/latest-news/detail/2021/10/06/workforce-shortages-in-mental-health-cause-painfully-long-waits-for-treatment

[3] https://www.tecmark.co.uk/insights/mobile-phone-usage-statistics-2019

[4] https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/media-releases/2018/decade-of-digital-dependency

[5] https://healthcareglobal.com/digital-healthcare/third-uk-patients-prefer-mobile-apps-doctor-visits

[6] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41746-019-0093-1.pdf

About the authors

Nicola Hemmings has over a decade of experience applying an evidence-based approach to workplace performance. A workplace scientist and content creator at Koa Health, she’s committed to finding evidence-based solutions to real-world problems in the workplace and beyond.

Dr. Claire Vowell is a counselling psychologist who’s passionate about improving access to mental health care. In her work as lead psychologist at Koa Health, she leverages clinically validated techniques to create interventions to improve people’s mental wellbeing.

About Koa Health

Scalable and accessible mental health for all

Koa Health is a leading global provider of workplace mental health solutions. Trusted by leading insurers and employers such as Mapfre, O2, Jack.org and Education First, Koa Health leverages deep clinical expertise, research, and technology to deliver practical, personalised and accessible evidence-based support that meets people where they are.

Our top-ranked mobile-first solutions have been shown to have a positive impact on stress, resilience, sleep and overall life satisfaction with just two weeks of use in randomised control studies.

*Please note: This is a commercial profile

© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

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