Across the board, healthcare technology is making big waves and revolutionizing patient care. From robotics assisting with surgical procedures to artificial intelligence (AI) helping with disease prediction and prevention, big changes are happening. However, for some, the greatest benefit of all is how telehealth technologies are enabling greater access to care.
Better access to care is especially important when it comes to mental health services. Having easy access to a therapist or psychologist can make a huge difference in any person’s life, but digital therapy is particularly beneficial for newer generations like Gen Z. Teens and young adults are considered to be at higher risk of suffering from mental health issues, so they must have access to the tools and support they need.
Because Gen Z is so comfortable with
technology, online therapy is the perfect solution for them. It can empower
them to take control of their mental health while allowing them to do so in an
environment that is more familiar to them.
Why is Access to Mental
Healthcare So Important for Today’s Youth?
While any person can struggle with their mental health, reports are showing that younger generations are particularly vulnerable to behaviors that can increase their chances of battling mental health issues. New data from the CDC is showing that teen girls in particular are experiencing higher rates of mental health issues today, with 57% feeling persistently hopeless and sad. This represents a 60% increase over the past decade.
Data from the same report shows that LGBTQ+
youth are also experiencing higher rates of distress. More than half of LGBTQ+
students report experiencing poor mental health recently and more than 22% have
attempted suicide in the past year.
The findings also show worsening levels of
persistent hopelessness for ethnic and racial groups of youth. While all youth
are more vulnerable to mental health issues, it is no surprise that problems
are worse for minority populations, including young women and members of the
The CDC states that having greater access to
school-based activities as well as having the support of trusted adults like
mentors, teachers, and staff can help. However, it’s also important for youth
to have access to mental health services where they can talk to a professional
who can offer them more personalized help and guidance.
How Online Therapy is Bridging
Gaps for Younger Generations
While many teens and young adults have been going to therapy for decades, telehealth services are now providing youth with greater access, so even more young people can have access to the help and support they need. The COVID-19 pandemic also acted as a sort of catalyst to push a lot of medical facilities forward with their telehealth services. This made mental health services even more accessible today and changed the future of online therapy, which will be life-changing for so many youth who are struggling.
Before the democratization of healthcare technology, many young people didn’t have access to affordable mental health services. Some didn’t have access to these services at all, no matter the cost. But with online therapy, it doesn’t matter who they are or where they are located, there is someone online they can talk to.
This is life-changing for many youths who often feel like they have to suffer alone and have no one who understands who can help them. Now, they can easily open their laptop and find an online therapy provider or even free online resources such as the chat function on 988lifeline.org.
More Data, Better Treatment Plans
With everything going digital, doctors and
therapists also have access to more data when dealing with patients. The more
data a therapist has to work with, the easier they can provide a more
personalized approach that allows for better diagnosis and treatment plans.
The technology we have today also means therapists have access to a wider range of treatment options. Augmented reality (AR) technology, for example, is helping mental health providers provide better treatments for conditions like PTSD and anxiety. So not only do youth have easier access to therapy now, but with data and advanced tools, mental health professionals can also provide better care.
Convenient and Private
Reaching out to someone for help can be scary
for anyone, but especially for younger people who might not yet have the
experience needed to navigate such stressful situations. However, with online
therapy, reaching out to a mental health provider is much more convenient and
private. Students can easily connect with someone online from the comfort of
their room, which can help bridge that gap that might have otherwise kept them
from reaching out. Because teens today feel so much more comfortable opening up
online, it makes sense that online therapy could make such a significant
difference in their lives.
Considerations to Keep in Mind
With Gen Z preferring the digital landscape, it’s no surprise that online therapy is likely here to stay. However, with this new age of digital mental health services, it’s important to be mindful of the risks that still exist.
While data was mentioned above in a positive context, there are also many things that can go wrong with so much data being stored and shared online. An increased digital presence can mean an increase in network security threats if providers aren’t careful. Malware attacks, DDoS attacks, phishing, and computer viruses are all happening more often today.
So, while online therapy is ultimately a good
thing, providers need to be mindful of protecting patient privacy and the data
they are collecting by using more secure connections and encryptions, ensuring
data is being safely stored, and regularly monitoring for signs of suspicious
activity on their networks.
With online mental health services providing
greater access to youth in need, the future is bright for Gen Z and the
following generations. The more we improve access, the easier it will be for
more young people to limit their struggles with their mental health and