5G IN ACTION: MENTAL HEALTH

Where has 5G been deployed to support mental health treatment and management?

Liverpool 5G Create has developed a 5G connected app designed to boost wellbeing and reduce anxiety amongst children under the age of 8. The Chill Panda application features a panda that expresses the user’s emotions based on their heart rate and mood ratings, with an AI driven recommendation engine creating personalised anxiety reduction content. It was designed based on pediatric studies and is expected to improve child mental health, in addition to help remove the stigma around mental health challenges amongst children.  

There is also growing academic research that suggests virtual reality could play an important role in the treatment of anxiety disorders, including post traumatic stress disorders and eating disorders. VR-based techniques are ideal for exposure therapy because they immerse the patient in a feared environment that can be tailored to match specific aspects of their fear structures in a fully controllable setting. Results suggest virtual reality exposure is related to large declines in symptoms, demonstrating similar efficiency compared to traditional exposure interventions. With 5G, such experiences can become more realistic, immersive and include multiple participants.

Virtual reality exposures also offer a number of practical advantages compared to in-vivo exposures which can be costly and impractical. They also offer complete control, and the means to manipulate exposures in a way that may not be possible in-vivo (for example, a virtual flight can land multiple times). Plus virtual treatments can offer vital help to patients with far shorter waiting times than for in-person treatment, helping to minimise distress for patients and securing better outcomes: considering eating disorders are estimated to cost the UK £9.4 billion a year, the capacity for earlier and potentially more effective interventions makes economic sense, too.

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