Digital technologies are transforming every aspect of modern life, ranging from the way we communicate and consume media, to how we work and conduct commerce. However, the impact of digital technology on human health, and mental health in particular, is less clear. Moreover, there is a high level of community concern regarding the health effects of new technologies, particularly how they affect young people.
Despite these concerns, digital technologies have the potential to solve some of the greatest health challenges we face, particularly in mental health. Although we have many mental health treatments that are effective, greater access to these treatments has failed to yield significant reductions in the public burden associated with poor mental health (Kessler et al., 2003; Mojtabai &Jorm, 2015; Reavely & Jorm, 2014), especially amongst young people (Mojtabai, Olfson & Han, 2016). This failure calls for new approaches that can provide a dramatic advance in the effectiveness, timeliness, and scalability of our interventions.
Digital technologies provide an historic opportunity to bring about a sea-change in the way we approach mental health. Because mobile technologies primarily collect data on human behavior, often in the context of their social relationships and interpersonal communications, they provide new opportunities for screening, tracking, and intervention, many of which are historically unique. For example, sensing using mobile and wearable computing (Harari et al., 2016) has the potential to transform our prediction of mental health states, and thus our capacity to provide timely and effective intervention to at-risk individuals.
We now stand at a critical juncture in the application of these new technologies and approaches to enhancing mental health. Our group has the tools, collaborations, and expertise to solve critical problems - solutions that have the potential to significantly lift the burden associated with mental disorders. These approaches leverage the latest developments in technology, quantitative analysis, and behavior change techniques to empower innovative, timely interventions and place them into the hands (and pockets) of people who need them.