The second eMEN conference, organised by Mental Health Reform in partnership with ReachOut Ireland, took place on the 16th November 2017 at the Hilton in Dublin, Ireland. The conference, with the theme: 'Technology for Wellbeing – Innovation, connectedness & user empowerment' was the second trending topic on Twitter all day.
The conference was opened by Dr. Shari McDaid, director of Mental Health Reform (MHR), our Irish eMEN partner. She indicated that she was very pleased with MHRs' participation in this project, which could make a positive contribution to the necessary reform of Irish mental health care.
It was followed by opening address by Jim Daly, TD, the Minister of State for Mental Health & Older People, who emphasised the importance of eMental Health and the possibilities that technology offers to keep the service provision accessible to all Irish people. He also expressed his gratitude to the European Interreg program that supports the eMEN initiative and indicated, partly through an encouragement from our Irish partner MHR, commitment to looking at developing an eMental Health Strategy for Ireland (as one of the first countries in the EU). The Minister concluded that this was the most important conference of the year for him!
In Ireland, a lot of effort is needed to improve mental health services, reduce long waiting lists (often up to 20 months) and keep the healthcare affordable. This was emphasized once again by the youth panel and the participants in the room. eMental Health offers new ways to address major challenges facing the mental healthcare sector by providing cost-effective ways to reach, in a timely manner, the large numbers of people needing services and support. Some commentators suggest that eMental Health has the potential to be a game-changer in this regard. It could help reduce or even eliminate waiting lists, provide immediate access to supports in crisis situations, enable better utilisation of scarce clinician time, and support more self-help and building of resilience across the population. The fear that eMental Health technology will replace jobs, quite remarkably, was not really an issue raised during this event – however potentially plays a significant role.
Another highlight of the conference was the showcase of the Mindwise app from Ireland, presented by James Hawe of the Health Service Executive (HSE)- agency responsible for all public health care in Ireland. Mindwise is an application for depression and the HSE is developing plans for its testing nationally in 2018 in all 9 HSE regions. The newly announced employment of assistant psychologists in Ireland’s primary care system plays an important role in this venture and may become a leading example for other countries.
Other interesting speakers of the day included Judith Parke from Reach Out Australia, who informed the audience how eMental Health has already been integrated into Australian mental health care. Prof. Heleen Riper (VU, and partner eMEN) gave a presentation on the effectiveness of eMental Health and how cost-effective research can be stimulated. Dr. Bert Bonroy (Thomas More Mobilab, and eMEN partner) gave a demonstration on the use of wearables in the mental health context.
Many various stakeholders met during this conference, which was very well received and clearly put the use of eMental Health on the agenda.