Self-Care Before Health Care

The barriers for young people to both identify their own potential mental disorders and then seek out support are significant. The global mental health epidemic amongst young people has become increasingly critical, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with shortages in mental health staff and services, overburdened health care systems, distance from in-person treatment facilities, low levels of awareness around mental illness, cultural barriers and continued stigmatisation of mental health related issues.

As such, young people with common mental health issues including anxiety disorders and depression are often left undiagnosed and untreated. 

Enhancing awareness around the benefits of self-care, as well as increasing knowledge of common mental disorders and their symptoms are important steps in destigmatizing mental disorders. Digital health tools including iNSPIRETEK’s infinite and insight have been developed with this in mind, providing users with self managed self-care tools including extensive evidence-based content and an all ages biometric tracking tool. Both features provide accessible solutions to streamline individual self-care initiatives, and when used in unison provide a very important tool to increase awareness, identify key symptoms and help destigmatise mental disorders. 

Looking beyond self managed self-care plans, creating a strong and connected community around young people is vital. Depending on their age and location, adolescents may have a high level of dependency on their parents/caregivers to identify mental disorders as well as gain treatments. Broadening this network to include their peers, teachers, coaches and other important stakeholders will build additional support channels in their lives, increasing the likelihood of identifying mental disorders and allow more open conversations to take place. 

Through solutions such as insight, coaches/teachers and parents can gain a deeper understanding of individual children and adolescents using the insight app, and subsequently deliver informed self-care initiatives that include:

•Improve sleep and rest practices
•Encourage healthy eating routines
•Increase in exercise/activity
•Moderation of exercise/activity in users/athletes who are experiencing physical pain

In one recent iNSPIRETEK study, users indicated a higher willingness to openly discuss pain and mood levels amongst their fellow athletes since adopting regular usage of the infinite app. This is an important outcome, as the coach noted that conversations around pain were limited in the same group previously. Other studies in the space support positive outcomes, including the utilisation of online interventions for depression in the support of GP care* and web-based interventions proving to be effective for psychological wellbeing and mental health prevention.º 

Globally, over 13% of adolescents aged 10-19 have a diagnosed mental disorderª. With the understanding that this number is likely much higher due to gaps and barriers in diagnosis, urgent action needs to take place to avoid a catastrophic rise in preventable or manageable mental disorders. infinite and insight have been developed to drive self-care initiates, provide early intervention and assist in the prediction of mental disorders through an easily accessible, readily scalable and extremely affordable solution. 

With clear evidence that the onset of mental disorders occur in childhood and adolescence at a higher rate than any other age group, along with a wide treatment gap, research is pointing to the importance of early interventions and preventions to mitigate lifelong mental disorders˜. As such, extensive self-care plans should become a critical focus in developing supportive frameworks for young people to provide optimal conditions around their wellbeing.