E-Mental Health Conference brings tech to mental health care

The e-Mental Health Conference, hosted by UBC and taking place this week, is aimed at changing the way UBC students receive mental health care. The fifth annual conference focuses on youth and their familiarity with technology to develop new mental health care solutions.

From February 9 to 10, researchers, developers, clinicians and young people gathered to consider new possibilities for mental health care distribution. Topics ranged from the creation of web-based tools for education and campus resources for youth mental health.

Michael Krausz, conference organizer and member of UBC Psychiatry, is excited about the future of e-mental health. 

“I think that web-based or mobile services will play a major role in healthcare delivery in the next 10 years, especially in mental health,” he said.

Krausz noted that some of the problems with the current mental health care system could be resolved with e-health solutions.

“We have a very limited capacity in mental health. There’s long waiting times and the mental health care systems are always very late. It’s only very crisis driven and not a lot of prevention and other things,” said Krausz. “We are trying to develop a way and an approach where we can provide good support and online resources much earlier and that’s the reason we’re focussing on youth.”

Krausz said, that amongst students, there is an increase of severe anxiety, suicide and all kinds of mental challenges that need to be addressed. Currently, Krausz and his team are working on a project to develop a web-based mental health delivery platform for UBC students.

“I think we can build a very comprehensive online system which is accessible for all UBC students regardless where they are. [The service] could link them also to physical services like counselling and student health services so that you have kind of really good access to make informed decisions,” he said.

According to Krausz, the research being done concerns the effects of web-based services on users and how users prefer to receive mental health care support. They are exploring how students are using web-based services and what would be most beneficial to them.

The work being done on e-mental health is not limited to experts and scholars — Krausz encourages student involvement with the project.

“If students are interested, they can contact our group and they are more than welcome also to do some academic work around that ... and also give feedback [for] the existing things we already have developed, which are available online already.”