The pandemic has led to an increase in anxiety and depression in Norway. In June 2021 the Office of the Auditor General of Norway issued a report pointing out serious deficiencies in municipal mental health services and long waiting lists for obtaining help.

At the same time, online apps and services are making it easier for people to seek help for mental health problems and new studies have shown that these can produce good results.

“More widespread use of video calls with a psychologist is not enough. Self-help apps, sensors and chatbots can increase both capacity and quality, and ensure that more people obtain the mental health care they need,” says Tore Tennøe, Director of the Norwegian Board of Technology.

Digital opportunities for mental health care

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Five ways of bringing psychologists and patients together online:

  1. During the pandemic, video consultations have progressed from being a marginal phenomenon to being offered by most psychologists. They provide patients with help at home and reduce the need for travelling, thus reducing the costs involved. At the same time it is possible for each psychologist to cover a greater geographical area.
  2. Online consultations allow patients to complete various tasks online, and patients and psychologists do not need to be present at the same time. Online consultations can be just as effective as face-to-face treatment for combatting depression. By using the Norwegian eMeistring platform, each psychologist is able to treat three times as many patients.
  3. Sensors that measure, for example, heart rate, movement and how we use our voices, may reveal signs of mental illness. The INTROMAT research project has shown that activity bracelets can tell if someone with bipolar disorder is about to have a depressive episode.
  4. Chatbots are fully digital conversational interfaces that can help people to understand and improve their own health situation. They have a low usage threshold and almost infinite capacity. Some examples include Woebot, Replica and the Norwegian Co-mestring.
  5. Virtual reality (VR) can take users into a digitally simulated environment, so that they can practice dealing with different situations. This technology can be used, for example, in the treatment of psychoses and phobias.

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