Can technology actually be good for our mental health?
Dr Nick Taylor, clinical phycologist and co-founder of Unmind, says YES.
Mental ill-health costs the UK economy between £74bn and £99bn each year. Currently, there is insufficient care and resources readily available to people when they need it most.
Technology provides an accessible, scalable means for people to improve their mental wellbeing, whether they’re thriving or surviving. For some, it’s a destigmatised channel which empowers them to seek support. For others, it gives them the comfort to manage their mental health in their own time. It can point users in the direction of resources, help them come to terms with the challenge they’re facing, and ultimately offer 24/7 access to the right care, at the right time.
We also need to focus much more on proactive and preventative care when it comes to our mental health. Technology that tracks and analyses our lifestyle data can enable us to appreciate which areas of our life are going well, and which need more focus, so we can take active steps to improve them – this is what being proactive means.
It’s time to stop relying on reactive care when it comes to mental health, and technology empowers us to take a step towards achieving this.
Jenny Afia, a privacy lawyer and partner at Schillings and a member of the Children’s Commissioner’s Digital Task Force, says NO.
I’ve been using an app to try meditation. The content is great but the experience marred by the notifications, streaks, and gaming techniques designed to prompt subscribers to log on.
This is an app whose sole purpose – seemingly – is to promote wellbeing. Yet it deploys persuasive design techniques to make it more compulsive.
Captology, where computers and psychology intersect, is now an intrinsic feature of most tech. These products are only going to become more addictive.
Yet what’s captivating isn’t necessarily best for our wellbeing. Quality of friendships is sacrificed for quantity on social media. Other people’s picture-perfect lives erode our self-worth. Opinions are polarised as we live in thought bubbles. Sleep suffers as autoplay suggests new content to keep us glued to our screens late at night.
I don’t trust big tech to enhance our mental health. These are the same companies whose guiding principle is “move fast and break things”, and who have avoided regulation for as long as possible.
Main image credit: Getty