Enter the year of Digital Mental Delivery

Professor Anil Thapliyal

Professor Anil Thapliyal
Auckland, February 26, 2021

I always loved listening to the late Sir Ken Robinson’s TEDx Talks.  

He used to say that our school system educates us out of our innate ability to take risks in a world where it is common to frown upon mistakes.

While it is tempting to wait out the pandemic by doubling down on entrenched models of care, we risk missing a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the mental health landscape for future generations.

There are promising digital mental health initiatives spawning in most countries and even possible sightings of the holy grail: full integration with service user pathways within a stepped care framework. However, we still have a very long way to go and bold steps are needed to get there. 

In 2021, taking risks is not just about learning new things but unlearning an unhelpful legacy of doing things which can sometimes prevent successful implementation of digital mental health initiatives.

The jigsaw puzzle

I often visualise the eMental Health domain as a jigsaw puzzle in the making.

Fitting the pieces together will require sharing global perspectives and learnings on what has worked but also on what has not. This means providing practical guidance to leaders seeking to implement, scale and sustain digital solutions, ensuring co-design is authentically led by service users and based on sound evidence, developing robust policy and strategy frameworks, investing in practical workforce development, and engaging meaningfully with the health IT industry to support the development of best practice tools and services. 

Moral responsibility

2021 must be the year of digital mental health delivery. It brings with it a moral responsibility and challenge for all of us to step out of our comfort zones, take risks, and make bold decisions. Let us begin by speaking the consumer’s language and listening attentively to their needs. Only by truly connecting in this way can we deliver the right services at the time, place, and communication mode of their choosing.  

Professor Anil Thapliyal is Executive Director, eMental Health International Collaborative and Chief  Executive of HealthTRx Limited based in Auckland. He is on the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). Mr Thapliyal is a nationally and internationally celebrated thought-leader and entrepreneur in mental health.  He is widely recognised for leading transformation in the Mental Health domain through the application of digital technologies seamlessly integrated within people’s care to improve access, engagement and treatment. The above story has been sponsored by


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