NHS England will today (24 March) launch a ground breaking initiative to help treat depression and anxiety and improve access to psychological therapies by unveiling the first ever directory of NHS-endorsed digital mental health services.
The Mental Health Apps Library will go live at 12.00pm and feature online tools, resources and apps that have a proven track record of effectiveness in improving mental health outcomes.
It will be accessible through the NHS Choices platform, a website which gathers over 40 million visits per month, 9.7 million of which are to pages on depression; 6 million per month to stress and 9.4 million to anxiety.
Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s Clinical Director for Mental Health, said: “Mental health care can be enhanced by technology and its ability to connect us with the right treatment in a more personalised and accessible way. Increasing access to digital services which support those suffering with mental health difficulties will help people get the right care, at the right time.”
Mild and moderate mental health conditions are a major social issue, around 15% of the population is estimated to have a common mental health disorder but many find it difficult to seek help through traditional routes. Department of Health policy on improving mental health service accessibility highlights the fact that fewer than one in six older people with depression ever discuss this with their GP.
Online therapy offers patients flexibility through out of hour’s appointments as well as discretion for those worried about stigma and privacy.
This has also been welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, he said: “With around one in four us experiencing mental health issues every year, it’s important that we do everything we can to ensure people get the support and treatment that they need to live a better life. We’ve made great strides in the past few months by investing millions in talking therapies and eating disorder services. There is £1.25 billion in this year’s Budget for children’s mental health, increased investment to help support veterans and new initiatives to help people on benefits get back into work.
“But I know there is much left to do, which is why innovative pilots like this are so important, helping to provide treatment and support for those experiencing mental health crises. This showcases the NHS at its best – pioneering new ways of treating and supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society, harnessing innovative technology to help build a fairer society for us all.”
The Mental Health Apps Library is the first experiment of the wider work currently being undertaken by the National Information Board to formally endorse and accredit digital services for use in clinical practice.
Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information, said: “We want to offer people the chance to use apps and digital tools routinely to help them take control of their own healthcare. There are online services already working for patients and we hope, by giving them our official backing, we will give clinicians, citizens and carers the confidence to use them. Digital platforms have a key role to play in improving access to psychological therapies and helping us meet our ambition of achieving parity of esteem for mental health services.”
Mental health was chosen as an initial focus due to the growing evidence base which proves the success of online tools in treating depression and anxiety.
Big White Wall is an online service which helps members to manage their mental health condition by offering quick access to support, guidance and individual live therapy over a secure link. Almost three-quarters of respondents to an internal review said they had talked about something for the first time on Big White Wall, 80% were able to self-manage their condition as a result, and 95% said it helped them feel better.
Jen Hyatt, CEO and Founder at Big White Wall, said: “At Big White Wall we have seen how digital services are essential to reach the 75% of people with poor mental health who remain untreated. Many prefer 24/7 access to clinically safe mental health support at home without fear of stigma. We are delighted to be one of the first NHS endorsed digital services on NHS Choices and applaud this bold move to bring the benefits of evidence-based digital technologies direct to the public.”