Rhonda Moore, Program Officer NIMH, NIHTrack 7 FUNDING/RESOURCES FOR DEVS
Mental health is the biggest single predictor of life-satisfaction. Poor mental health can impede an individual’s capacity to realize their potential, work productively, and contribute to society. Yet, despite its importance, mental illness remains one of the most neglected yet essential issues in the US and across global settings. Mental illness tends to be under assessed, under managed and undertreated across clinical populations, with significant disparities in high risk and vulnerable populations due to social factors (e.g., stigma, access, discrimination, cost, poverty etc.,). The social and economic costs are diverse and far‐reaching—often leading to homelessness, poor educational and health outcomes, high unemployment rates culminating in high rates of poverty. While a variety of psychological and pharmacological treatments exist for moderate and severe mental illness (e.g., depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder etc.,); the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in profound mental health impacts among the general populations worldwide, also accelerating the rapid expansion of adoption asynchronous virtual mental technologies and the implementation of a variety of digital mental health tools (e.g. psychotherapy sessions for enhancing access and monitoring treatments and therapeutic benefit, mental health provider training/supervision, and the use of games to augment training of mental health workers, or as a treatment for mental illness, etc.). As we look to the future and certainly to the world post COVID-19, there are new opportunities to positively transform clinical and personal environments of mental health care. Using insight from the fields of mental health, behavioral science, neuroscience, digital psychiatry, serious game design, and narrative; this panel will discuss practical approaches and challenges to developing analogue, interactive, playful, and virtual environments to better understand, treat and transform the experience of mental illness at this time and for the future. Practical lessons, ethical considerations and insights will also be discussed.