Amid the ongoing mental health crisis, exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are turning their attention to the metaverse as a potential solution.
The metaverse, a virtual world where people can meet and interact digitally, promises to transform mental healthcare by providing innovative avenues for prevention, diagnostics, therapy, education, and research. With the surge in demand for mental health services outpacing available resources, integrating technology-driven infrastructure is becoming increasingly urgent.
Transforming mental healthcare through technology
According to a 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF) report, the metaverse concept offers new possibilities in mental health treatment, leveraging virtual environments to cater to various aspects of telemedicine. Telemedicine uses communication technologies to provide healthcare solutions remotely. By utilizing gaming platforms and virtual reality (VR) applications, conditions like depression and anxiety can be addressed at distance while further promoting mindfulness and meditation techniques.
Organizations such as DeepWell Therapeutics, Ninja Theory’s Insight Project, and TRIPP have allegedly developed video games and VR experiences that target mental health issues, increasing patient engagement and helping to destigmatize mental health problems.
Meeting the growing mental health crisis
The mental health crisis, already prevalent before the Covid-19 pandemic, has reached unprecedented levels. According to persons familiar with the matter, the shortage of mental health providers has made it difficult to meet the escalating demand for care.
However, the United States is considering a federal reimbursement opportunity for tele-mental health services to alleviate the shortage. The potential of the metaverse in mental health treatment is particularly timely, offering a practical and essential application that could drive its emergence and widespread adoption.
Additionally, while excessive screen time and social media have been associated with decreased psychological well-being, responsible usage can have positive effects. Screen time spent in shared virtual spaces has the potential to combat the mental health crisis rather than contribute to it. Virtual shared spaces provide avenues for building connections, fostering social support, and facilitating mental health treatment.
As per the WEF report, the metaverse represents a future vision encompassing virtual shared spaces enhanced with augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) technology. It is important to note that there may be multiple metaverses, each with its purpose and level of immersiveness. These virtual environments can significantly contribute to prevention, diagnostics, therapy, education, and research when harnessed for mental health.
Community`s call to action
The United States Surgeon General has recognized the urgent nature of the mental health crisis and has declared a call to action. According to him, Integrating mental health-centered technology-based infrastructure is imperative, especially when used responsibly.
On the other hand, Ilman Shazhaev, CEO & Founder of Farcana, told MetaNews that the metaverse is an outstanding technology that the big tech firms and startups notably champion in the Web3 space. According to him;
“The development of the technology has been largely multifaceted, but with the direction given by the WEF, innovators may begin to joggle ideas on how they can join the trend and benefit from the growing tele-metaverse medicine.”
By utilizing the metaverse as a practical and essential application for mental health care, both patients and the development of the virtual space can thrive.