COVID-19 is taking its toll on global mental health, and it could spark renewed interest in innovative mental health technologies.
“. . .half of Canadians say their mental health has gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 10 per cent reporting it has deteriorated ‘a lot’. . .”
“Less than 20 per cent of Canadians polled reported being optimistic when asked to survey their life in the past couple of weeks, and 16 per cent described themselves as depressed. . .”
With an increasing number of people facing mental health challenges around the world, new, innovative mental health solutions may be needed now more than ever before.
“We already have a number of evidence-based approaches to prevent common mental health conditions . . . [But] we also need to support research to find new and more effective approaches . . . This pandemic highlights the importance of innovation and trying to provide [mental health] services in new and more accessible ways. . .”
It’s worth noting, however, that even before the COVID-19 crisis, support for mental health innovation was rising.
According to research by Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s largest funds, VC investment in mental health technology reached approximately US$750 million in 2019 — a 5x increase compared to 2014. Octopus Ventures goes on to state that for every ~US$9 invested into digital health technologies in 2019, ~US$1 went towards the mental health tech sector.
While US$750 million may seem like a comparatively small number today, remember that the burgeoning cannabis sector received total investment of just US$1.29 billion in 2016. Furthermore, the need for new mental health technologies will continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, given the havoc its wreaked on communities and businesses around the globe.
“As the virus [COVID-19] subsides, we will see a big surge in the need for mental health care,” said Patrick McGorry, executive director of youth mental health organisation Orygen, and founding director of headspace.
“It’s not just the immediate effects of the pandemic and the virus — it’s the massive social and economic effects that we’re expecting over the next year or two that are going to really drive down the mental health of the population.”
Mental Health Technology Positioned for Growth in 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the growing need for tech-enabled mental health interventions. What’s more, these technologies don’t have to reinvent the wheel to enhance people’s lives and/or capture investor interest — just take mindfulness app Calm, which reached a US$1 billion valuation last year, for instance. Technologies that can improve mental health — be it by making people feel less anxious, depressed, or bored — are all but guaranteed to receive increased investor attention in the coming years.