Thorbjorg Vigfusdóttir, a cognitive psychologist by training, spent 12 years as a politician in her native Iceland with the goal of directing her knowledge on the development of the brain into education and public policy. After leaving politics to form a company providing remote speech therapy in Icelandic schools, she was founded Kara Connect, an online consultation platform enabling therapists and clinicians to provide remote care and treatment, which was recently adopted by the National University Hospital of Iceland (Landspítali).
What are the key benefits of remote treatment for young people in need of mental health support?
Young people now are digital natives: they find it useless to go into a physical waiting room and wait to see somebody that they don’t know; they prefer to do it this way. The threshold for getting help is easier when technology is involved; and many young people feel a degree of stigma about accessing mental health support, so it can help to connect online at least in the first instance, before you meet. It helps to build trust between the patient and therapist, for example if somebody is isolated or bullied, of if they need to build trust with child protection services, the technology grants them easier access. It also eliminates the issue of transport: they don’t need to pay for the bus or spend time in a waiting room filled with older people; it’s a completely different access point for these young people.
Has the unprecedented onset of a global pandemic significantly affected the mental health of young people? Are you seeing a higher uptake in mental health services?
Yes, we are. There has been a documented increase in students at school and university reporting anxiety and depression. Many school psychologists and counsellors are adopting remote consultation technologies to reach these kids, to keep them going to school, and to allow them to talk to someone about how they’re feeling. I think it’s really important that schools, which may not be opening in autumn, again, keep in close touch with these kids: the mental health of young people is effectively another pandemic right now; and the increase will act as a strain on the system as a whole, because we don’t have enough mental health professionals. It may be that, using telehealth technologies, we can enable therapists to offer shorter sessions more often; and to use more of their time of these professionals on conducting sessions than on administration…
News in Context:
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