The statistics according to Rita Mae Brown show one in four Americans are suffering from some sort of mental illness. Mental illness is a large category ranging from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar, multiple personalities and much more. The undiagnosed population is substantial since many individuals with mental illness do not seek out medical care due to stigma associated with the disease. Recently, a friend of mine went through a horrific event where her brother committed suicide after a long battle with mental illness. The devastation caused by this event affected all members of the family in their own way and will continue for some time. Suicide rates are greatly rising in American society as a result of this category of disabilities. The statistics are troubling but with increases in better medical services and different types of assistive technology, there is new hope on the horizon.
This article begins to explore technology beneficial to individuals, and caregivers, of persons with mental illness. To achieve the promise of community living for everyone, new service delivery patterns and incentives must ensure that every American had easy and continuous access to the most current treatments and best support. Advances in research, technology, and our understanding of how to treat mental illness provide powerful means to transform the system. In a transformed society, consumers and family members will have access to timely and accurate information promoting learning, self monitoring and accountability to allow for maximum independence.
Technology to Access Mental Health Care and Information
The delivery of services is crucial to someone with mental illness. Continuity of care and monitoring of the current status of a person provides independence and healthy living. In a transformed medical health system, advanced communication and information technology will empower consumers and family members and will be a tool for providers to deliver the best care. Information regarding illness, effective treatments, and services in the community will be readily available to consumers and families. Already, the Internet is providing extensive data on a variety of topics. One particular web site to investigate is NAMI. This web site is massive, providing information regarding different diagnoses, updates on mental illness and support systems, along with many other areas to explore. For medication information, try www.MayoClinic.com, as understanding the side affects of medicine is important.
Electronic records can improve health quality by promoting adherence to evidence-based service delivery in practices through inclusion of clinical reminders, clinical practice guidelines, tool for clinical decision support, computer order entry, and patient safety alert systems. For example, prescription medications being taken or specific drug allergies would be known. This could prevent serious injury or death resulting from an interaction, excessive dosage, or allergic reactions. Many individuals with mental illness are on multiple medications, which potentially are harmful when used in combination. Some clinics and hospitals have started to computerize an enormous amount of data on patients. This trend will continue in the years to come, improving medical services to all individuals.
The privacy of personal health information, especially in a case of mental illness, will be strongly protected and controlled. Already HIPPA is making information more private. The privacy act allows individuals to specify who can and who cannot gain access to essential information on someone. Again, computers in the health system are making this easier to track and keep out of prying eyes.
Technology & Medication
Medications are prescribed to maintain or improve symptoms. Many individuals are not compliant with the dosing schedule. The challenge for some individuals is keeping the time schedule and medications straight. There are medical reminders such as the CompuMed, which will dispense setup medications at the correct time and sound an alarm for the individual to hear as a reminder to take the medication. If the medication is not picked up on the scale after a certain amount of time, a second alarm will sound. Finally, if the individual still is not picking up their medications from the device, an emergency number will be called.
For the individual who is out and about during the day, there are medicine pillboxes that will sound an alarm when medications are to be taken. Another simple adaptation for medical reminders is a programmable watch with multiple alarms. These watches can be purchased at local stores without having to go through a medical supply company. A PDA is another method of setting up reoccurring reminders throughout the day on any subject. It could include appointment times along with a medication schedule.
Research has shown for some individuals with anxiety or similar diagnoses that music can calm a person down. Music therapy is a form of assistive technology because it provides compensatory strategies, which are considered accommodations. The use of a headset or CD player may be beneficial to many. Similarly, art therapy can provide an outlet to different feelings.
Self hypnosis and positive self-talk are other forms of accommodations to dealing with certain types of mental illness. Although these forms of treatment have been around, it has recently resurged into psychotherapy. Proper training is important to the success of these forms of assistive technology.
It is interesting to consider the vastness of assistive technology. Many people believe that assistive technology is only a device. Assistive technology as seen above is much more. It can be a system, compensatory technique, or a service provided to expand opportunities and possibilities to individuals. The number of individuals with mental illness is astounding. There are many more technological devices to assist with memory or other issues secondary to the primary diagnoses. Exploration is a key factor in finding out what will work best. It is exciting to see results as individuals begin to assimilate technology into their daily routine.