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Non-Specialists and Digital Technologies: A New Approach to Mental Health Interventions

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Non-specialists, aided by digital technologies, can significantly contribute to mental health interventions, thereby helping reduce the mental healthcare gap in countries with limited resources. These were the findings of a systematic review that examined the different combinations of non-specialists and digital technologies in mental health interventions. The review focused on the effectiveness of these combinations in reducing the mental healthcare gap in low-and middle-income countries.

The research involved a comprehensive literature search in four databases, three trial registries, and using forward and backward citation searches. The study included primary studies on mental health interventions that integrated non-specialists and digital technologies in low-and middle-income countries. The review considered two main outcomes: the mental health of the receivers of the intervention and the competencies of the non-specialists in delivering mental health interventions.

Out of 28 studies reviewed, digital technology was primarily used in non-specialist primary-delivery treatment models for common mental disorders or subthreshold symptoms. It was observed that the competencies of non-specialists improved with digital training. This improvement was measured using standardized effect sizes (Cohen’s d) and narratively synthesized. Furthermore, it was found that the mental health of the receivers improved through non-specialist-delivered interventions. Digital technologies were used in these interventions either to support the delivery or to supervise the work of the non-specialists.

Digital Technologies

Digital Technologies in Mental Health Interventions: Promising Progress and Future Challenges

Additionally, it was found that the mental health of service receivers improved through digitally delivered mental health services with non-specialist involvement. Despite these positive findings, the study acknowledged that the overall certainty of the evidence was poor. Thus, there is a need for more robust evidence to compare the magnitude of effectiveness and identify the clinical relevance of specific digital functions.

In conclusion, the incorporation of digital technologies into non-specialist mental health interventions has shown promising potential in enhancing non-specialists’ competencies and knowledge in intervention delivery. It also positively impacts the severity of mental health problems and the psychosocial functioning outcomes of service recipients. Future studies should focus on exploring long-term and potential adverse effects and interventions targeting men and marginalized communities.

 

Original Article DOI: 10.1186/s12889-023-17417-6

Original title: The effectiveness of mental health interventions involving non-specialists and digital technology in low-and middle-income countries – a systematic review

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