At Joon, we believe our youth is our future. We help teens achieve their mental health goals, but we also want to support aspiring mental health trailblazers by establishing the Joon Care Scholarship Fund. In 2022 we asked students to provide an answer to the following prompt in 500 words or less:
We know that technology has the ability to both improve and impair mental health. What tangible steps can we take to move towards a world where technology consistently improves mental health care and access to care? How does technology impact the next generation of mental health care?
Our team read hundreds of inspiring essays and selected one submission to win our $2,000 scholarship to help further a student's education in a mental health-related field. The following is our winning submission by Vivien B. an undergraduate pursuing a degree in psychology.
With at least half of people with mental illness unable to access treatment, the state of mental health is dire. A primary access barrier to mental healthcare is geographic disparities in where mental healthcare providers are available. 37% of Americans–primarily those in rural areas–live in an area with a shortage of mental healthcare workers (National Rural Health Association, 2021). These rural areas also have around double the rates of suicide, representing a need for mental health support. Technology poses a unique solution to geographical barriers to mental healthcare access by making remote treatment possible. This reach could be expanded even further to low and middle income countries, especially utilizing asynchronous and self-guided forms of psychoeducation on digital platforms.
Another major challenge facing mental healthcare is inconsistency in treatment quality. Researcher Myrna Weissman found that 60% of graduate mental health programs did not include any training for evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy. Technology provides an opportunity to challenge this training deficit and increase the quality of care. Therapy platforms like Joon that emphasize the use of evidence-based practices and offer ongoing training and support for clinicians provide a streamlined way to ensure therapists are implementing the most effective form of care for their clients.
Additionally, unique advancements in Artificial Intelligence have proven capable of screening therapy sessions for their empathy levels and usage of evidence-based practice (Imel et al., 2019). This technology could be used to help provide feedback to therapists in a systematic way to ensure the highest quality of care. Natural language processing technology also has the potential to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis. NLP could be harnessed to identify the most subtle changes that might not be obvious enough for a therapist to quickly pick up on. This could prove crucial in identifying the first stages of mental illness and preventing misdiagnosis, encouraging earlier and more tailored intervention.
With all of these potential avenues for innovation, I am excited for the day when I might sit in an office across from my future clients as a clinical psychologist. I envision my therapy sessions being AI-assisted, using NLP to provide unique insights on subtleties and patterns my patient is demonstrating. This could include a platform for my patients to provide information between sessions, using machine learning to provide me with insights into patterns they themselves might not have even noticed and allowing us to focus on the most important topics during our session. The possibilities are endless and I’m excited to play a role in this mental health revolution.