Last week was World Mental Health Day and to mark that, the good news roundup focuses on positive stories about mental health care.
We have news on how international mental health research is progressing; there has been a significant increase in the mental health budget in Spain; Singapore scientists are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence for early detection of mental health disorders; a study that says the more compliments you give, the happier you will be, and a new era for hearing aids.
Click on the video above to get the full summary and learn more about the following:
1. We are improving in the treatment of mental disorders
One of the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the heavy toll it has taken on people’s mental health.
Rates of already common illnesses such as depression and anxiety rose more than 25% in the first year of the pandemic.
The good news is that many countries have updated their national mental health policies and strategies, WHO says in its latest mental health report.
The Spanish government, for example, recently announced a 67% increase in the Spanish mental health budget for 2023.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had previously presented an action plan to combat the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, for which he allocated an amount of 100 million euros to cover the period from 2021 to 2024.
Countries like Finland and Iceland have taught social-emotional skills in schools and online programs to support young people’s mental health in Australia, Norway and the Netherlands. Canada has also made promoting positive mental health a priority with a dedicated surveillance framework.
In 2020, Australia doubled the right to psychological therapy sessions. In 2021, Chile announced that the mental health budget would increase by 310%. Prior to COVID-19, New Zealand had developed the world’s first “wellness budget”.
In general, international mental health research is advancing rapidly, which is good news for all of us.
2. Singapore scientists are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence for early detection of mental health disorders
Mental health issues can be difficult to spot. Unlike, for example, kidney disease, which is relatively easy to diagnose, conditions such as anxiety or depression do not have specific biomarkers that can be detected by a test.
Patients with the same mental disorder can have many different symptoms, making it very difficult for doctors to accurately diagnose.
However, scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore are developing an AI diagnostic toolkit that could help solve the problem.
They say that AI’s ability to efficiently process large data sets could help us detect biomarkers for various mental health conditions. As well as to determine whether a patient’s mental impairment will become more severe.
“We collected different variables, different signals of variables, something we call digital biomarkers,” project key researcher and computer scientist Dr Iva Bojic told Euronews.
Some of the biomarkers the team focused on include heart rate, sleep patterns and energy expenditure, “and then we correlated that with the symptoms we saw and after a while the model was able to learn “, said Dr. Bojic.
The machine learning model is then able to make predictions for new users based on their biomarkers.
For now, the team is focused on spotting depression, but they hope to expand to other conditions such as schizophrenia.
The way the model predicts isn’t binary, says Dr. Bojic; it gives a percentage from zero to one hundred. “Then it’s basically where we put the threshold. So are you going to say depression starts above 50 or are we going to say it starts around 80%? »
“What we are doing is more of a screening tool for people…and then hopefully they can enter the care process, where their condition can be managed.”
Dr Bojic says one of the benefits of their study is that they work with general populations, rather than focusing on people who have already been clinically diagnosed, making it “an excellent screening tool”.
“I’m really happy that we’re able to do this kind of digital-health intersection. It’s not just about chasing a few numbers.
“I really think that…we can help people with the knowledge and the algorithms that we have developed.”
3. The more compliments you give, the happier you will be.
A simple compliment can brighten someone’s day, but we constantly underestimate how good it can make someone feel.
We also overestimate how inconvenient and uncomfortable we might be to someone, and we worry that our words might be wrong.
But, it turns out that everything is baseless. Compliments do us good. Hear them and give them, according to five in-depth studies by two scientists at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Only 50% of people in an experiment who wrote a compliment for a friend sent the compliment when they had the chance, even though they had already done the hard part: finding something nice and thoughtful to say. »
“Despite the widely shared desire to give more compliments, in the face of decision people still often give up inexpensive opportunities to make others feel appreciated and valued,” said Professor Erica Boothby, co-author of the study, in an article written for Harvard Business Review.
When asked, almost 90% of people thought they should compliment themselves more often, she said. And yet we choose not to give them in practice.
Professor Boothby and fellow scientist Vanessa K. Bohns have also found that the element of surprise can take an already powerful compliment to the next level. When the givers caught their recipients off guard, the people receiving the compliments were even more grateful.
4. A new era for hearing aids has officially arrived
Hearing loss can be quietly devastating for tens of millions of people.
There is a strong link between deafness and loneliness, social isolation and depression. There is even an increased risk of falls, as hearing loss can lead to problems with balance.
People who lose their hearing are also more likely to suffer from dementia.
But few people who need it actually use a hearing aid. In the United States, for example, less than a third of adults over 70 who need a hearing aid have ever used one.
In Europe, 65% of people with hearing loss do not use hearing aids.
Why? Frustration over time scales and cost seems to be the main reason that discourages millions of people from buying the devices.
Until recently, the sale of hearing aids was restricted to licensed professionals, which kept prices high, very high – up to US$4,000-5,000 in the United States.
The good news is that everything changed last week when the US Food and Drug Administration made high-quality hearing aids – suitable for most people with mild to moderate hearing loss – an over-the-counter product.
Barbara Kelly, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, told Euronews the association has been waiting more than four years for hearing aids to finally become available over the counter.
In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report on Affordable and Accessible Hearing Care, recommending that the FDA open a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids.
In 2017, the corresponding law was enacted.
“And it took that long, about four years, for the FDA to come up with the rules, and then time for everyone to comment on them, and then release the final rules,” Kelly explains.
Last Monday, these hearing aids finally became available.
“We are really positive about it. We believe this is a new avenue of care for people. We hope that having these hearing aids in the mainstream will make them more accessible, more affordable, and more acceptable to some people.
The fact that hearing aids have now become an over-the-counter product does not mean that people will not be able to use the services of a specialist.
“I don’t see it as a choice. You can certainly still get good service from a hearing care provider and get an OTC.
In the United States, people generally have to pay out of pocket to get hearing aids. And the prices “run the gamut,” in Kelly’s words.
“There are hearing aids that have all the bells and whistles. They monitor your blood pressure. They warn people when you fall. These can reach almost 10,000 US dollars. But I would say a midpoint would probably be around $4,000 for two hearing aids.
The Hearing Loss Association of America hopes over-the-counter hearing aids will make devices more affordable once the market grows. He also expects to see innovation.
“We’ll see new people coming into the market, not just traditional hearing aid companies.”
“It is so important to pay attention to hearing health. In the beginning, when you have good hearing, and every step of the way.
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Until next time, and remember, some news can be good news.
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