Five technologies improving mental health in the emergency services sector

A growing number of emergency services workers will suffer from stress, anxiety, or another type of mental health illness at some point during the careers.

Many emergency services organisations have flagged this as their number one workers’ compensation challenge, but as cases of mental illness continue to increase, significant technological advancements are taking place which are unlocking new strategies to promote better mental health.

Highlighted below are five  key technologies emergency services organisations around the world are using to better manage mental health.

  1. Virtual Reality

Most people know the concept of virtual reality (VR) in entertainment, gaming, and sports broadcasting. However, therapists have been using this platform to treat mental illnesses for several years now. In fact, virtual reality graded exposure therapy was found to be powerful and effective in the management of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other mental disorders in combat veterans.

Skip Rizzo, Associate Director for Medical Virtual Reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, is amongst those using VR to treat soldiers’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Rizzo and his team discovered the incredible effectiveness of VR to elicit a response from patients who would never describe an ailment to a real person, because of social norms. Inside VR, in private, patients revealed more information to the avatar than the real therapist. The lack of social risk supersedes the awkwardness of interacting with an avatar.

With the constant improvement in graphics, sound quality, and gadget design brought by today’s technological advancement, VR will highly likely be seen as a more powerful and essential tool in mental health care.

  1. ChatBots

A chatbot is a computer program, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, designed to simulate conversation and interact with human users via a chat interface over the Internet.

Tech innovators are now partnering with psychologists to develop chatbots designed specifically to aid mental health management. With chatbots like Wysa or WoeBot installed on a computer or smartphone, emergency service workers are able to chat to WoeBot, about their mood, engage with techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy, find patterns in their lifestyles that may effect their mental health.

As emergency service workers often work shift work, the best thing about using a chatbot for therapy, is that they are always there to talk, 24/7.

  1. Self-Help Apps

Work-related stress is inevitable, especially for emergency service workers working long hours and/or regularly witnessing trauma however, there are now several apps designed to help ease and improve one’s mental and physical health.

Tictrac and Remente are two examples of personalised health and wellness apps that can provide self-help information, advice based on cognitive behavioural therapy, goal-setting techniques, and life assessment tools.

With police, paramedics and other emergency service workers being deprived of sleep at times, these self-help apps can also keep track of slept hours, daily steps, and more.

  1. Wearable Devices

Wearable technology is also becoming more popular. With emergency service workers constantly being on the go, these devices are great as they can be worn as wristband or necklace, or clipped on their shirt.  They can be effective in relieving stress, managing anxiety, and even tracking schedule for clinic visits or taking pills.

AffecTech and Prana are good examples of mental well-being wearables available in the market today.

  1. Online Services

Connecting with mental health professionals through technology is becoming and more. Thanks to online services or platforms like Skype, Big Health and Justworks, it is now easier for emergency service workers to seek help.

Engaging in response efforts in the wake of a traumatic event is inevitably stressful for those involved in the emergency response. While the work is rewarding and challenging, it also has a large potential to affect the mental and physical health of emergency service workers.

The stress and trauma experienced by emergency service workers can quite often be addressed as an afterthought but steps can be taken to minimise and manage mental health conditions with the use of digital tools and technologies.

Try one or more of the tools and solutions we’ve mentioned and see how they can change your or your team’s mental health, for the better. Alternatively, contact us here, to speak to one of our experts.