New approach to address Mental Health Challenges everywhere

Adjunct Professor Anil Thapliyal

Adjunct Professor Anil Thapliyal

Auckland, October 14, 2020

  INL Graphics

International Collaborative on Thursday, November 19, 2020

In today’s day and age, it almost sounds absurd that with all the technological advancement, even in the so-called First World countries, a big proportion of the population is still grappling with the inequality of mental health service provision.

Access to services everywhere

With the advent of Covid-19, we have celebrated some fast-tracked triumphs of creativity but mostly, all the equity-related challenges have been laid barren in front of all of us.  

As an Australian Torres Strait Islander, New Zealand Māori or Pacific person, or a Canadian First Nation’s person, should I expect mental health services to be designed by my people and ingrained within my cultural context? As a member of the LGBTQ community, should I expect fair treatment in a way that is respectful of who I am? If I live in a remote and rural location such as Kiruna in the north of Sweden, Goose Bay in Labrador, Canada, Paraburdoo in Western Australia or Haast in New Zealand, should I expect the same access to services as people living in the main cities of these countries?

The answer is Yes.   

Alarming facts

These facts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) remain alarming: “Close to one billion people globally have a mental disorder, with those with severe mental disorders likely to die 10 -20 years earlier than the general population. Suicide is claiming the lives of close to 800,000 people every year: 1 person every 40 seconds and is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years. Relatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services, especially in low- and middle-income countries where more than 75% of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all.”  

Real solutions to challenges

eMental Health offers real solutions to these challenges. 

Last week, WHO launched a global social media challenge to get the world tuned into their own and others’ mental health. 

This represents a massive call to action for us to ramp up our investments in mental health, given the huge unmet need for support that has been only heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

On World Mental Health Day (October 10, 2020), WHO released a digital stress management guide on the WhatsApp platform. This guide will include simple guided exercises to support stress reduction.  Watch this space for further news on how this evolves.  

It is also exciting to learn that WHO is working with Facebook Messenger to extend their sticker pack to support mental health chats.  At the more therapeutic end of the mental health spectrum, digital mental health services are increasingly evidence-based and co-designed with and for specific audiences. 

An equity-lens and outcomes-focus is at the heart of their design. 

Some global examples

Examples around the globe include ReachOut Australia‘s digital services for young Australians including specific services for their LGBTQ community, Aunty Dee in New Zealand supporting Pacific people, a dedicated online resource for rural and remote communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada called Bridge the gApp, and The Trevor Project‘s crisis intervention and suicide prevention tools co-designed with and for the global LCBTQ community.

While simply a snapshot, these developments are highly encouraging.

Together, we are in a unique position to influence global mental health outcomes and set the wheels in motion to eradicate inequity once and for all. eMHIC was created precisely out of the need to share insights amongst global eMental Health leaders as to what really works and to facilitate collaboration as we strive toward a digital mental health framework of tools and strategies that are effective, reliable, and inclusive of all populations.   

International Collaborative next month

On Thursday November 19, 2020, the eMental Health International Collaborative, supported by Sweden, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand, is convening its Sixth Annual eMental Health Congress to address these profound and real mental health equity issues and explore how digital offers solutions. 

International delegates at this eMental Health Congress represent (1) People with lived experience, their families and carers (2) Funders and planners representing the commissioning agencies (3) Academia developing evidence-based approaches (4) Frontline workforce members and (5) The health IT industry.   

I invite you to explore the eMHIC website ( for resources, global collaborative webinars and opportunities to make a difference; such as through next month’s eMental Health Congress or by getting involved by joining eMHIC as a member.

We each have an important role to play in improving population mental health. 

Mental Health has no geographical boundaries as countries do. Hence, through this global collaboration it is beginning of a purposeful journey to create new approaches to deal with mental health challenges in a meaningful and culturally appropriate manner. 

About the Collaborative:

The eMHIC website says that the eMental Health International Collaborative (eMHIC) is a place where leaders and experts in eMental Health and addiction come together to leverage global innovation across digitally enabled mental health promotion, prevention and treatment, and to collaborate across borders. 

“Our core aim is always to support and improve mental health and addiction outcomes for all populations. Since 2015, global eMental Health domain leaders from Sweden, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand and England have been meeting annually to share knowledge and experience of implementing eMental Health initiatives in their respective countries. In 2020, APEC and Singapore are also joining this rapidly evolving eMental Health conversation. Come and join this global movement to get engaged with international experts, contribute, influence and be inspired.”

Anil Thapliyal is Adjunct Professor and eMental Health Lead, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), based in Auckland, New Zealand and Executive Director eMental Health International Collaborative. He is also the Chief Executive of Health TRx Limited.
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