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Treatment For Depression: Games, VR May Help People Suffering From The Mental Disorder

The number people suffering from depression is expected to rise amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. South Korea is investing nearly $26.2 million over the next three years to research digital treatment for depression.

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects more than 264 million people of all ages worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For moderate and severe depression, health-care providers may offer psychological treatments such as behavioural activation, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), or antidepressant medication. But have you heard about digital treatment for depression?

Digital treatment methods, such as games and virtual reality software, are increasingly gaining attention as a possible alternative to treat and prevent mental health disorders without direct physical care. In fact, South Korea is planning to invest nearly $26.2 million over the next three years to research digital treatment for depression.

The country's Ministry of Science and ICT announced the plan on Thursday to help the rising number of people suffering from the mental disorder.

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The Ministry has earmarked 14 billion won until 2024 for the research programme, and the private sector will be investing 14.9 billion won, Yonhap news agency reported. Experts across various fields, from artificial intelligence to mental health, will take part in the research, the report said.

The aim is to develop a digital service that offers personalised depression diagnoses based on real-time collection and analysis of user data using smartphones and other mobile devices, as well as provides preventative measures against the disease.

Pandemic triggers rise in depression cases

The devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic deaths from the disease, lockdowns, unprecedented curbs on social interactions, economic disruption are having a huge impact on people's mental health, leading to rise in cases of depression and anxiety.

In a survey by the US Census Bureau, more than 40 per cent of participants reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December 2020, an increase from 11% the previous year. Data from other surveys suggest similar situation worldwide.

Last year July, smart-tech-enabled preventive healthcare platform GOQii surveyed over 10,000 Indians to understand how the pandemic has changed their life. It found that 43 per cent of the participants were dealing with depression. While 26 per cent had mild depression, 17 per cent was dealing with a more strenuous kind and 6 per cent were severely depressed.

Another study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, cautioned that healthcare workers involved in Covid-19 care could be at risk for one or more mental health problems, including acute traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, problematic alcohol use, and insomnia. The researchers from the University of Utah in the US surveyed 571 healthcare workers including doctors, nurses, and emergency responders. Overall, 56 per cent of the respondents screened positive for at least one mental health disorder.

Depression is a serious mental disorder that can interfere with your work, social life and family life. We all feel sad or low sometimes, but having these feelings most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks is not normal. A persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest are the signs of depression.

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