What Part Is Data Playing In Mental Health Support?

From the way we consume music to which football players are most sought after, Data & Analytics has become engrained in our day-to-day lives.

It plays an integral part in how businesses, products, and how people function and evolve. And the scale that data is growing proves its huge presence within our everyday. By 2026, it is estimated that the market will be worth $273.4 billion.

What role does the Data & Analytics industry play when it comes to helping support those suffering from mental illness, and how does the industry ensure medical professionals and non-professionals alike can better understand mental health and well-being?

Current mental health treatment

Each year, one in four people will suffer from mental ill-health each year. In any given week, eight in 100 people will be diagnosed with mixed anxiety and depression, six in 100 for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and four in 100 for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Yet, despite the understanding that we have about the prevalence of mental ill-health within our society, three-quarters of those struggling will not receive the treatment they require. So, what role can, and is, Data & Analytics playing in supporting the healthcare system with mental health care?

Data & Analytics in healthcare

Currently, 97 per cent of data produced by hospitals in the UK is wasted however, with new technologies and tools, the hope is that this number will dramatically decrease over the coming years. From AI to wearable technology and machine learning models, patient data can be analysed with great depth, helping hospitals to not only understand patient needs in real-time, but also predict future needs. These tools can also enable doctors to faster analyse medical images and potentially enable scientists to predict when another pandemic could occur.

How can this be used in mental health care?

Akin to physical health, these tools and technologies will first and foremost help us to understand mental ill-health in far greater depth than before. It will enable medical professionals to understand the risk factors, whether nature or nurture, behind mental ill-health. It will help them spot patterns, recognise prevalent symptoms and, over time, begin to be able to predict mental ill-health and crises within patients. Secondly, with this data, healthcare professionals will then be able to, far more effectively treat patients. Perhaps more importantly, these data sets will help professionals to potentially stop mental ill-health episodes in their tracks through preventative measures due to a greater understanding of certain risk factors within different demographics. While still a relatively new phenomenon with the field, there are already clear examples of how Data & Analytics is driving change within mental health care.

  • The Crisis Text Line: Using Machine Learning, data scientists have collated over 30 million data sets from its users to better understand times of crisis. It has already learned that Wednesday is the most anxiety-provoking day of the week and that mental health crises most regular occur during the night. With this knowledge in hand, and as the team continues to learn even more, they hope to be able to prevent crises from occurring.
  • Ginger: Through over 1 billion data points, the virtual mental health service which scans and assesses information from users’ care sessions enables greater understanding of the progress being made in sessions, where plans need to be changed to fit with the user and where crises could occur.

These are only two examples, but there are plenty of case studies around the world whereby we can see the Data & Analytics is truly beginning to play an integral part in the evolution of mental health care. While this area of research and understanding within Data & Analytics is very new and is demonstrably lagging behind physical health, it’s clear that strides are being made in the right direction. We are most certainly heading towards a far greater understanding of mental health through these modern tools and technologies and, in turn, the ability to prevent and better treat mental illness gets closer every day.

If you're looking to play a role in using data to support those struggling with their mental health, Harnham can help. Take a look at our latest Data & Analytics jobs or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more. 

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