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E-Mental Health in Canada: Transforming the Mental Health System Using Technology A Briefing Document

Purpose

Since the beginning of the 20th century, we have been using technology to provide health services, disease management, and health promotion across geographic, social, time, and cultural barriers. Such technology helps people suffering from chronic diseases to acquire access to treatments. It also helps those who may not seek conventional care to overcome stigma.

In Canada, using technology to control, detect, screen, or treat an illness is seemingly common. But not for mental health problems or mental illness. Technology in this area is not as widely used or invested in, due to significant resistance and misunderstanding.

Most Canadians trust electronic transactions to not only handle connections with others (social media, email communications, etc.), but also their finances. Money is often one of the most important things a person owns. Online, we can transfer it, check it, and trust our computers and mobile devices to keep our money safe, confidential, and private. So why not trust it for mental health services and information?
Many individuals with mental health problems or illness are not able to access the kinds of professional support or treatment they need. Due to regional, professional, or resource limitations, access to care – even in developed countries like Canada – can be difficult. In both rural and remote areas, as well as inner city neighbourhoods, the time between the onset of symptoms and getting professional help is taking far too long.

The use of technology is transforming the way we receive health care in new and exciting ways. By using their smartphones, social media, and gaming, patients are becoming empowered to make informed decisions about how they manage their health, and service providers are able to deliver cost-effective and innovative care across vast distances.

Integrated properly, e-Mental health (see definition on page 2) is proving to be just as effective as face-to-face services (Titov, N., et al, 2010; Robinson, E., et al, 2010; Andrews, G., et al, 2010; Christensen, H., et al, 2011) and the technology is improving every day. Not only will this result in more people getting help, but it will also improve the quality of care we deliver, reduce costs, and overcome challenges that are present in our current health care system. All of this will result in the improved mental health of Canadians.
The time is now for this paradigm shift to happen. The MHCC has brought together experts from across Canada and around the world to discuss the issue and figure out ways in which we can move forward with collective action.

This paper provides a description and overview of e-Mental health in Canada, and showcase e-Mental health and its tremendous opportunity to transform the mental health system. We also discuss some challenges and barriers to use, and present recommendations for its current and future use in Canada.

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