Study Shows Telehealth is Greatly Effective in Suicide Prevention

Mental health is an area that needs much attention and support, with more than 800,000 people dying from suicide every year around the world. A recent study found that telehealth mental health services can greatly help those who need them- and even prevent suicide risks.

What did the research find?

Mental health is a critical area in our lives, and taking care of your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical exam. You get your blood drawn annually and go to the doctor's office when you feel ill. The same goes for mental health- if you're struggling with mental health issues, you must seek help to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The Journal of Medical Internet Research found that telehealth, contrary to previous beliefs, is effective when it comes to mental health services.

In the study, patients in the telehealthcare group were 4.3 times less likely to have suicidal thoughts. With the pandemic and more people staying home, this is significant news as telehealth can be proven to have positive effects on mental health. Dr. Mimi Winsberg, the chief medical officer at Brightside Health who led the study, shared her thoughts on telehealth and mental health.

"The study, which was published in JMIR Formative Research, sought to determine if Brightside Health's telehealth platform, which is equipped with precision prescribing clinical decision support, could successfully reduce suicidal ideation among enrolled patients, versus a control group who tracked their symptoms on the platform without receiving care. Another goal of the study was to describe the symptom clusters of patients who present with suicidal ideation to better understand the psychiatric symptoms associated with suicidal feelings. The study was large scale including participants of diverse geography and social demographics,"

Dr. Mimi Winsberg

The study was conducted with 8,581 individuals who completed an online intake on the Brightside platform. Out of the participants, 8,366 received psychiatric care from the online platform, while the rest 215 individuals opted out from care and just traced their symptoms. The telehealth psychiatric care consisted of 12 weeks of treatment, including video consultations, messaging, and prescribed medication from psychiatrists. Brightside's online technology utilized their measurements to see depression and anxiety, including clinical presentation, medical history, and demographics. The platform uses gained data from algorithms to provide detailed guidelines and clinical care to patients using a "computerized symptom cluster analysis."

"The study found that patients enrolled in Brightside Health's telehealth platform had reduced suicidal ideation after 12 weeks of treatment. Patients who received treatment via Brightside Health were also 4.3 times more likely to have remission of their suicidal ideation than the control group who were monitored on the platform but did not receive care. The results demonstrated that a telehealth platform equipped with clinical decision support was an effective intervention for the symptom of suicidal ideation. In addition, we found that suicidal ideation had higher correlations with cognitive symptoms of hopelessness and poor feelings of self-worth than with the physical symptoms of depression such as disrupted sleep and low energy," continued Winsberg.

What exactly is telehealth?

Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, refers to the process of getting healthcare treatment without an in-person office visit. It can involve video chat, messaging, or voice calling. It is usually done with a mobile phone, computer, or tablet. Telehealth has risen in popularity with the pandemic and lockdown when many individuals were staying home to stay safe from COVID-19. Telehealth can be beneficial to those who don't have access to in-person office visits or even those who wish to continue seeing their primary care physician when they relocate. Telehealth can involve anything from mental health, flu, physical therapy, and more.

Although telehealth is not a traditional way to go with mental health, especially with more acute symptoms, the study revealed that telehealth can indeed improve symptoms and provide effective treatments to those going through mental health struggles. Telehealth is more than just video chatting, but utilizing high-tech systems such as remote patient monitoring and clinical decision support to carefully support patients. Telehealth interference can pursue symptom lists in patients, measure outcomes via measurement-based care, and provide real help and interventions without physical traveling. Not everyone has the opportunity to physically travel to a therapist or a psychiatrist, thus having the option to receive support online is a great method for many individuals across the nation.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research's study is a big step for future telemedicine and mental health, as it can provide extensive care to those all around the world. "Additionally, as payers and providers collaborate to deliver more effective care, telehealth will likely become more than a means to deliver care, but also a way to enhance care delivery and provide highly effective care to those who need it most with expediency," shared Winsberg.

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