About eMental Health
The eMEN project brings together a range of key stakeholders across NWE countries (Netherlands, France, Germany, UK, Belgium and Ireland) aiming to promote the development and implementation of eMental Health. eMental health involves a broad spectrum of applications of digital technology in mental health services and supports. These range from mobile apps for self-help, to ‘blended therapy’, which combines face-to-face and online therapeutic supports.
The eMEN project partners include mental health service providers, mental health professional organisations, user and other third sector organisations, SME developers of eMental health products, and university research departments. Collectively, the partners comprise a unique transnational, multisectoral, and multidisciplinary consortium motivated to encourage and support the development and utilisation of eMental health products and services to address key mental healthcare challenges, initially in the NWE countries but also across Europe and internationally. Mental Health Reform is the sole Irish partner of the eMEN project.
The demand for mental health services has been growing in the NWE countries and in the other EU member states. Anti-stigma campaigns, socio-economic pressures and COVID-19 are leading to greater numbers of individuals looking to access help. Mental health services have not been able to keep pace with this increased demand, and have therefore been under pressure. The result is growing waiting lists for people in need of support, as well as a large treatment gap reflected in the many people who never receive any treatment.
eMental health is part of the solution to this growing demand, fusing technology with evidence-based therapy to put support directly into the hands of individuals who need it, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. Over the past ten years there has been significant activity in the eMental health field. Many self-help apps are now available for mental health, and there are a growing number of eMental health treatment programmes involving combinations of technological and therapist support.
The potential offered by eMental health to address the treatment gaps in mental healthcare remains very under-exploited. One factor has been the lack of effective quality assurance frameworks for mobile self-help apps, both for users seeking appropriate and high quality apps and for app developers working in this space. Another factor has been the slowness of mental healthcare provider organisations to take-up and deploy eMental health based products and services as part of their mainstream activities. This is also the case for the extensive range of community and voluntary sector organisations that provide information, psycho-education, crisis support services, peer support platforms, and other mental health services and supports.
There is potential for important ‘win-win-win’ benefits from fostering development of vibrant eMental health ecosystems in European regions and transnationally. eMental health has potential for substantial health, social and economic gains at regional, national and European levels. This includes cost-effectiveness for mental health service providers, greater access and empowerment for people with mental health challenges, and market opportunities for product developers. The eMEN project is aiming to support this through fostering greater availability, deployment, and utilisation of high quality eMental health products and services.
Key lines of project activity include:
- working with and supporting eMental health application/product developers, especially SMEs;
- facilitating piloting and testing of eMental health products and services in mental health provider organisations;
- engaging with relevant stakeholder groups (service providers, practitioners, technology developers, user organisations, policy makers, etc) to examine attitudes and raise awareness;
- developing quality assessment methods and implementation guidance;
- elaborating policy recommendations at national and transnational levels;
- organising national and transnational conferences, seminars, and other events to promote awareness, bring stakeholders together, and stimulate activity around eMental health;
- establishing a transnational platform to provide ongoing support for a vibrant eMental health ecosystem of developers, deployer organisations, users, researchers, and policy-makers.
- Significant improvement in access to mental health services: Apps are typically available on all current online devices including laptops, tablets and smartphones. Once instructed in their use, people with mental health challenges have access to the apps 24/7.
- Improvement in consistency, quality and range of service offerings: Apps can be customised for a particular user so that the supports are tailored to their preferences and needs. Apps can encourage regular use and entry of important information that can be shared with the therapist. Apps can put in the user’s hands, a range of supports including online access to the designated therapist, peer supports, reminders, alerts, social media features and many other useful mechanisms to support the individual’s recovery. Apps can also be continually updated to add further features and tailored supports based on the users feedback.
- Reduction in service provision costs: Through the use of App technology, the caseload of a typical therapist can grow 10-fold. Once a person with mental health challenges has been assessed and given guidance on the use of the app, the need for follow up face-to-face sessions can be greatly reduced and ongoing support can be provided more efficiently through regular online check-ins. While maintaining a valuable role for the therapist, each professional can support a larger number of clients.
- Shift towards empowerment: the person with mental health difficulties is empowered to engage in self-care and be in control of their own recovery.
Project name: e-mental health innovation and transnational implementation platform North West Europe (eMEN)
Partner countries: Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France.
Partner organisations: Arq Foundation (Netherlands) VU University Amsterdam (Netherlands) Interapy Nederland B.V. (Netherlands) German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Pscyhosomatics (DGPPN) (Germany) Rhineland State Council – Institute for Healthcare Research (Germany) Mental Health Foundation (UK) Mental Health Centre Lille-Métropole Area (France) Thomas More University College (Belgium) ISW Limits N.V. (Belgium) Mental Health Reform (Ireland)
Funder: Interreg North-West Europe Innovation Programme
Funding: €5.3 million (€282,300 for Mental Health Reform)
Co-financing (Ireland): HSE
Co-financed funding (Ireland): €188,200
Timescale: May 2016 – November 2019
Contact: Dominika Topolska firstname.lastname@example.org
The eMEN capitalisation phase started on the 1st June 2020 with a focus on transfer of knowledge, skills and eMental health products between the participating countries, reaching new stakeholders/target groups. MHR have been exploring opportunities for building on eMEN achievements in Ireland, including further engagement with the HSE, SMEs and third sector organisations in the mental health space.
The eMEN team have also been continuously engaging with various stakeholders to develop innovative responses to the COVID-19 crisis challenges, including presentations/demos and advice on mental health products, supports and policy. Together with the international eMEN partners, MHR have been working to prepare an international-class eMental health training programme for service providers. Delivery of training is expected to start in Autumn 2021. MHR has been engaging with the HSE and voluntary sectors to plan locations for the training across Ireland.
MHR also produced and disseminated two well-received briefing papers for the sector:
eMental Health Pilots in Ireland
Pesky gNATs is a game-based eMental health tool for clinicians working with children and adolescents with depression and anxiety. The gaming components are to help the young person understand CBT concepts and how to utilse them in their daily life.
eWell is an online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programme for young people (adolescents) with mild to moderate anxiety or depression.nIt comprises a set of modules for the user to work through, with support from an appropriately qualified practitioner.