Last week was World Mental Health Day and to mark it, the Good News Roundup focuses on positive stories about mental health care.
We have news about how international mental health research is advancing; there has been a significant increase in Spain’s mental health budget; scientists in Singapore 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 the video above for the full rundown and more information on the following:
1. We are getting better at treating mental disorders
One of the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the enormous toll it has taken on people’s mental health.
Rates of already common conditions, such as depression and anxiety, rose more than 25 percent in the first year of the pandemic.
The good news is that many countries have updated their national policies and strategies for mental health, says the WHO in its latest Mental Health Report.
The Spanish government, for example, recently announced a 67 percent increase in Spain’s mental health budget for 2023.
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, had previously presented an action plan to deal with 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 been teaching social-emotional skills in schools and online programs to support the mental health of young people in Australia, Norway and the Netherlands. Canada has also made positive mental health promotion a priority with a specific monitoring framework.
In 2020, Australia doubled the right to psychological therapy sessions. In 2021, Chile announced that the budget for mental health would increase by 310 percent. Before 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. Scientists in Singapore are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence for early detection of mental health disorders
Mental health conditions can be difficult to detect. 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 present with many different symptoms, making it very difficult for doctors to accurately diagnose.
However, scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore are developing a suite of AI diagnostic tools that could help solve the problem.
They say that AI’s ability to process large data sets efficiently could help us detect the biomarkers of various mental health conditions. As well as to determine if a patient’s mental deterioration will become more severe.
“We have collected different variables, different signals from the variables, something we call digital biomarkers,” Dr. Iva Bojic, a key researcher on the project and a computer scientist, explained to Euronews.
Some of the biomarkers the team has focused on include heart rate, sleep patterns and energy expenditure, “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 can then make predictions for new users based on their biomarkers.
For now, the team is focusing on detecting depression, but they hope to extend it to other conditions such as schizophrenia.
The way the model predicts is non-binary, explains Dr. Bojic; gives a percentage from zero to one hundred. “So it’s basically about 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 percent?
“What we’re doing is more of a screening tool for people … and then hopefully they can move into the care process, where their condition can be monitored.”
Dr. Bojic says that one of the advantages of his study is that they work with general populations, rather than focusing on people who already have a clinical diagnosis, making it “an excellent tool for screening.”
“I am very happy that we can do this kind of intersection of digital health. It’s not just about chasing some numbers.”
“I really think that… we can help people with the knowledge and the algorithms that we’ve developed.”
3. The more compliments you give, the happier you will be
A simple compliment can make someone’s day, but we constantly underestimate how good they can make a person feel.
We also overestimate how upsetting and uncomfortable we can make someone feel, and we worry that our words might come off wrong.
But it turns out that everything is unfounded. Compliments make us feel good. Hear them and give them, according to five comprehensive studies conducted by two scientists at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Only 50 percent of people in an experiment who wrote a compliment to a friend actually sent the compliment when they had the chance, even though they had already done the hard part: thinking of something nice and thoughtful to say.” .
“Despite the widely shared desire to give more compliments, when faced with the decision, people often forego low-cost 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, nearly 90 percent of people believed they should congratulate each other more often, he said. And yet we choose not to give them in practice.
Professor Boothby and another scientist, Vanessa K. Bohns, have also discovered that the element of surprise can take an already powerful compliment to the next level. When the givers took their recipients by surprise, the people who received the compliments were even more appreciative.
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, because hearing loss can trigger balance problems.
People who lose their hearing are also more likely to have dementia.
But not many people who need one actually use a hearing aid. In the United States, for example, less than a third of adults over the age of 70 who need a hearing aid have ever used one.
In Europe, 65 percent of people with hearing loss do not use hearing aids.
Why? Frustration over time scales and cost seem to be the main reasons that discourage 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, between $4,000 and $5,000 in the United States.
The good news is that all this 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 Kelley, Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, told Euronews that the Association had been waiting more than four years for hearing aids to finally become available without a prescription.
In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report on Affordable and Accessible Hearing Care, and issued a recommendation that the FDA open a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids.
In 2017, the corresponding law was signed.
“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 to publish the final rules,” says Kelley.
Last Monday these hearing aids finally became available.
“We are very positive about it. We believe that it is a new way of caring for people. We hope that getting these hearing aids into 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 cannot use the services of a specialist.
“I don’t see it as one or the other. You can certainly still get good service from a hearing healthcare provider and get an OTC.”
In the United States, people generally have to pay out of pocket to get hearing aids. And prices “run the gamut,” in Kelley’s words.
“There are hearing aids that have all the bells and whistles. They check your blood pressure. They tell people when you fall. Those can approach US$10,000. But I’d say a middle ground would probably be around $4,000 for two hearing aids.”
The American Hearing Loss Association hopes that over-the-counter hearing aids will make devices more affordable once the market ends. He also expects to see some innovation.
“We will see new people entering the market, not just traditional hearing aid companies.”
“It is very important to pay attention to hearing health. At the beginning, when you have a good ear, and at every stage of the way.
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Until next time, and remember, some news can be good news.