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Griffith Uni research: digital solutions may aid athletes’ mental health

From stress, burnout, career disruption and social isolation, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed similar challenges for many people including one special subgroup—that of elite athletes.

Athletes are unique in their mental health problems but also their resilience, according to Dr Luke Balcombe from the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention, whose review of the most up-to-date mental health literature has been published in JMIR Formative Research.

He noted that elite athletes are an at-risk population for mental health problems compared to the general population. And 2020 has posed significant challenges with worldwide disruptions to athletes’ training and competition. The team found that digital mental health platforms including the use of smartphones and online behaviour analysis could help improve the mental health of athletes, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Balcombe and colleague, Emeritus Professor Diego De Leo, report that accumulative stress can manifest into more intense and severe symptoms compounded by ongoing stigma and non-recognition of issues.

Hence, tailored screening and tracking of psychological protective and risk factors are needed to better understand the association with psychological symptoms, disorders and abnormal behaviour. While sporting bodies and athletes have largely embraced mental health awareness and made efforts to address the barriers to help-seeking, promotion of a holistic approach is needed including prevention and early intervention framework. There should be more specific awareness of the range of mental ill-health through to positive functioning.

The researchers recognise collaboration between humans and machines will be critical to the innovation of mental health care in the future.

The team’s vision is a hybrid model of care, combining traditional face-to-face approaches as well as innovative digital technologies that may be used in promotion, prevention and early intervention strategies.

Mental health app market expected to grow

The global mental health apps market is expected to gain a significant lift over the forecast period due to increasing awareness regarding the importance of mental health. In terms of revenue, the global mental health apps market is expected to reach US$ 3,918.40 million by 2027 owing to increasing levels of stress among societies due to addiction to different substances and lowering social interactions

Nowadays, mental health issues and illnesses are considered an important health condition, by the World Health Organization (WHO), hence, various mental health-related campaigns and awareness campaigns are being held all across the globe.

For instance, in January 2020, the Luxembourgish League for Mental Health launched a new awareness campaign in Luxembourg to assist individuals who feel they cannot take the steps to treat their mental health issues. The campaign, titled ‘And if I were to talk to a therapist?’ was designed to introduce the network of help and treatment for various mental health issues.

Increasing use of smartwatches and smart screens has become a new norm for monitoring mental health and well-being. This is expected to help growing adoption of mental health apps offering seamless internet of things (IoT) connectivity.

Every month, companies and researchers launch new smartphone apps, smartwatches, and sensor technologies for the healthcare market. This has led to increased adoption of technological solutions for the management of clinical, administrative, and financial functions of mental health care practices. This in turn is augmenting the growth of the mental health apps market.

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