E-mental health in Lebanon

Ensuring access to mental health care

A cost-effective and scalable intervention for anxiety and depression

 

Last week FdH traveled to Beirut for a three-day planning meeting for our new e-mental health project . All of the partners involved in the project were present: the mental health department WHO Geneva, WHO Lebanon, the Mental Health Department for the Lebanese Ministry of Health, the International Medical Corp Coordinator for Lebanon and the Department of Psychology of the University of Zurich.

The afternoons were open to different stakeholders, including public health experts, clinicians, IT specialists, NGOs and IGOs. Everyone participated actively in the meeting, giving useful and insightful input on the Lebanese context and on the population’s needs. The three-day meeting was set up to gather the information that the University of Zurich needed to elaborate the mental health software.

E-mental health refers to the use of technology to diagnose or treat mental health issues. As with everything in recent years, medicine has been moving towards technology and it was only a matter of time before it was mental health’s turn.

Research has shown that therapeutic computer programs are associated with consistent clinical improvements, particularly in people suffering from mild to moderate depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Moreover, these interactive alternatives seem to be as beneficial as conventional face-to-face therapy.

These are extremely exciting findings, because the high prevalence and burden of depression are major reasons for the current gap we are fighting to close. The high prevalence and burden of depression is a major driver of the existing treatment gap and Care provision will not attain a nearly acceptance level of coverage in less resource countries. A computerized intervention may therefore be part of the solution.

If our culturally-sensitive mental health software yields the expected result, it could be taken to other countries by simply adapting the English-language generic version currently in development.

We have high hopes in this project, as it may represent a viable, cost-effective way to scale up mental health in many countries.

Below, a picture from the dinner after the workshop: