The IT4Anxiety project concluded with a final conference on 29 June 2023 in Namur

On 29 June, the closing event of the European IT4Anxiety project took place. The aim of the project is to co-create and implement innovative solutions for patients suffering from anxiety. The event highlighted the work of start-ups, healthcare institutions and researchers involved in a multidisciplinary approach to the issue. The event was held at the Bourse of Namur and was attended by over 130 people from 6 North-West European countries.


The IT4Anxiety project is a European initiative led by the Centre Neuro Psychiatrique Saint-Martin (CNP), which provides psychiatric care to people with mental health problems. Its aim is to identify and develop innovative solutions aligned with the needs of users, carers and families. 


While the impetus to collaborate on European projects has existed for over 15 years at the CNP, the idea of combining new technologies and mental health really came to life with the launch of the IT4Anxiety project at the end of 2019. From an avant-garde subject when it was first formulated, it became a topical issue at the time of its launch, with the Covid-19 crisis having contributed to worsening mental health problems. Before the pandemic, it was estimated that almost 20% of the European population already suffered from mental health problems each year (including disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders and eating disorders). Unfortunately, the situation has worsened since then.


The entire process, from its creation to the development of practical solutions, is the fruit of a multidisciplinary approach, involving institutional partners, research centres, universities, hospitals, users and carers associations, as well as start-ups and innovative young companies. It's a carefully balanced mix that has resulted in the creation of tools with real added value for users in the field - users, carers and relatives.


One of the first steps in the project was to launch a call for applications from start-ups wishing to benefit from support in testing their solutions for managing anxiety using digital and/or innovative technologies. This approach highlights the desire of the project's initiators to respond to the needs of healthcare professionals and users in the field. Of the 50 initial applications, 15 passed the validation filter of a group of academics and 10 solutions were tested thanks to European funding. The results of this research were presented in the form of explanatory posters at the final conference.


The very idea of the project is also to help users adhere more favourably to treatments and to improve the work of professionals by introducing new technological solutions.


"If you check Google Play or the App Store today, you'll find thousands of health applications available for download," explains Vinciane de Moffarts, lead partner of the IT4Anxiety project. "There are around 10,000 in mental health. That's a huge number! All these self-help solutions available on the Internet are not supervised. I think that one of the additional interests of the project is to show that a multidisciplinary team has tried to innovate by combining different approaches: clinical, IT, feedback from the field and an anthropological approach to the way in which all these applications can impact on our lives."


The work carried out as part of the IT4Anxiety project has also led to an international study of the need for new technologies in mental health. The initial results of this study, coordinated by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health (CCOMS), a partner in the project, were unveiled at the final conference.


The project has also led to the creation of an online training platform for carers. "We have initiated a movement to update the healthcare curriculum to include the use of digital tools. All the project's partner institutions are now thinking about the role of digitalisation in healthcare, and about the fears but also the prospects it raises," concludes Vinciane de Moffarts.


IT4Anxiety has demonstrated that innovative solutions developed by start-ups can effectively complement traditional medical protocols in the field of mental health. This growing awareness among users, carers and, above all, healthcare professionals, should lead to more widespread use of these new tools in the future. This is also the challenge facing the "European Cluster for Innovative Digital Tools for Mental Health" created as a result of this project, which will be tasked with promoting blended therapies in mental health, particularly among healthcare system financers.

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