eMental Health State of the Art and Opportunities for Ireland

‘eMental Health: State-of-the-Art & Opportunities for Ireland’ report by Kevin Cullen was launched by the Irish Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, TD on the 16th May in the Science Gallery, Dublin. The launch was part of a stakeholders engagement event, organised by Mental Health Reform as part of the eMEN project. Mental Health Reform are the national coalition on mental health in Ireland.

The event was attended by over 50 participants, including the main health service provider in Ireland (the Health Service Executive), researchers, service users, e-health technology developers and NGOs advocating for improvements in services and supports for people with mental health difficulties. The report was very well received and stimulated some discussion on the significant opportunities presented by eMental Health care as well as the limitations and potential challenges for these types of interventions.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Director of Mental Health Reform, Shari McDaid, said, “Valuable opportunities exist to exploit eMental Health technologies within the mental healthcare system in Ireland. eMental Health offers people easier access to mental healthcare, and increased choice and control over their own treatment. This report is rooted in Mental Health Reform’s value of empowerment of individuals who use mental health services, we are particularly interested in the possibilities digital technology can open up for people to take the lead in their own recovery.”

Maurice Farnan, Programme Manager in the mental health services for the Health Service Executive (HSE) stated, “HSE Mental Health Services welcomes this timely report on eMental Health services. eMental Health provides considerable potential for an improved service offering in mental health services. It offers opportunities to provide information, supports and treatment to people with mental health issues and the wider population. The HSE is pleased to note that the report parallels work that is on-going in the area of eMental Health in the mental health services. HSE Mental Health Services looks forward to working with all stakeholders across NGO and statutory sectors to provide enhanced eMental Health services.’’

The report considers eMental Health applications that may be helpful for the large numbers of people with common mental health conditions, as well as applications relevant for people with more severe and enduring difficulties. It presents a review of the broad field of eMental Health, with a focus on how it may contribute to addressing some of the challenges facing the mental healthcare system in Ireland. It highlights the range of technologies and application fields encompassed within eMental Health. These include teleconsultation (phone, video, instant chat), online and computer-based programmes (eTherapy), mobile apps, virtual reality, gaming, social media, wearables, and data analytics.

Select report findings

Potential benefits of eMental Health:

  • Wider reach of mental health services and access to these
  • Cost-efficiencies in delivering high-volume services
  • Treatment innovation and enhancement
  • More user involvement and empowerment
  • Expansion of self-help and access to peer support

 ‘’…despite the undoubted opportunities presented by eMental Health, it is not a simple ‘plug-and-play’ game-changer or panacea.’’

Select report recommendations

eMental Health Strategy

‘’It may be helpful to develop and resource a dedicated eMental Health Strategy to encourage broad consideration of eMental health opportunities across the mental healthcare ecosystem and to support accelerated deployment of useful applications. This should be embedded within wider mental health policy/strategy, such as currently being developed in the refresh of A Vision for Change.’’

Stakeholder engagement/consultation

‘’It is essential that all stakeholder groupings are involved in driving the future development of eMental health in Ireland. Effective mechanisms for engagement and informed discussion are necessary to support consultation with professional bodies, practitioners, user groups and service users, NGOs, and other stakeholders.’’

Quality assurance; Guidance for users & practitioners

‘’Given the large and growing number of online and mobile services and applications on offer, development of Irish quality assurance systems and guidance for eMental health users and practitioners is also important. Quality assurance systems (e.g. official certification systems or listing of endorsed products) encourage development and offering of proven good-quality products and services, and help users and practitioners to select which to use.’’

Implementation pilots

‘’It would also be useful to consider design, implementation, and evaluation of pilots/trials of eMental health in targeted fields in Ireland. This might include large-scale pilots of telemental health and eTherapies for common mental health conditions and more targeted pilots of telepsychiatry for specific purposes. ‘’

Supporting innovation

‘’More generally, it would be useful to establish a lasting support structure to lead knowledge-sharing, foster innovation, and support implementation of eMental health across the system in Ireland. The most effective way to foster useful innovation in eMental health is through collaboration between clinicians, technology developers, and people with lived experience of mental health issues. Establishment of a dedicated eMental health innovation ‘hub’ might be the most effective way to do this.’’

eMental health research

‘’Finally, a range of important aspects of eMental health require attention in mental health research in Ireland. This includes efficacy and effectiveness evaluation of eMental health offerings, translational and implementation research on putting useful innovations into practice, eMental health user experience research, and wider population research on utilisation patterns and their implications.’’

Here is a link to the executive summary

Here is a link to the full report

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