“There is no health without mental health” — David Satcher

Background

Mental Health is one of the important and essential component of universal health coverage. Yet many people who are suffering with mental health disorders are devoid of getting adequate or timely treatment. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

People with any kind of mental illness and disorder are more likely to experience high rates of morbidity and mortality. Suicide again, is the second most common cause of death among young people globally.

Mental health of any individual could be affected by both individual attributes (emotion, behaviour, interactions, etc.) and number of socio-economic factors like working conditions, living standards, social protections, etc. Thus, there are certain groups and sections of society who are vulnerable like people living in poverty, people living with chronic conditions, children & adults affected by violence, older people, gay, lesbians, transgenders, women, etc.

In low and middle income countries, treatment gap of those who suffers from severe mental disorders is between 76%-85% . For high income countries its between 35% — 50%. Additionally, there is also a huge problem of adequate treatment. Globally, only less than 2 US$ is spent on mental health care and less than 0–25 US $ in low income countries.

Financial assistance to mental hospitals

Another problem highlighted in the new Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2030, is that almost 67% of resources and financial assistance is given to stand alone mental health hospitals rather than focusing on community based interventions, integrating mental health into general health care services, and other. Lack of qualified and trained human resource is also another bone of contention. Availability of medicine in primary health care centres is low as compared to medicines available for infectious and other non communicable diseases.

Online screening tools to test mental health problems

As people with mental illnesses do not receive timely treatment, online screening tools can be seen as one decent method to shorten this gap. These tools can identify suicidal ideas, intent and behaviour of people. These screening tools are gaining success depending upon three factors namely: quantity, cost and tier of care of services. These tools can offer as a good, cost effective model of self care.

When a person feels that he/she has some symptoms in the form of anxiety or depression for example, these tools can become the first step to assess their mental health problem. These tools are then quickly designed to see whether people are experiencing any kind of problem. If so, they are directed towards variety of care mechanisms like self care, online/in person counselling, etc.

Mental Health America, one of the leading organizations working to promote mental health care has developed one online screening tool to test for mental health of people. These tests are available for several issues like depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, eating disorder, psychosis, anxiety, addiction, so on and so forth. There are several questions related to that particular problem, followed by demographic information (age, nationality, gender, ethnicity, household income, etc.) about that person. There are also information related to insurance, any past or present illnesses. All of this is followed by results and next steps in que (details of the treatment provider/s if you are a resident of USA and more information about that particular disease). University of Washington also offers self assessment test for various kinds of mental illnesses. Each screening takes 4–5 minutes.

After many studies were conducted on these tools in the areas of efficacy, user demographics, user engagement, users opinions mostly based on demographically homogeneous population. It has been found that there is a major hole in studies related to more generalized population.