Walgreens Now Offers Video Therapy on New Mental Health Platform
These are fascinating times in which we live. The technologies at our disposal have allowed us to shed light on the mysteries of yesteryear, providing us with more knowledge than we might ever have hoped to have. At the same time, we’re confronted with our limitations at every turn. Even with our advanced technologies and scientific know-how, there’s still no cure for cancer or HIV, and we still don’t really know why gravity exists or what triggered the Big Bang. And despite the progress we’ve made in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, the human brain remains an enigma in many ways.
According to estimates, more than one in four — 26.2 percent to be exact — American adults suffer from some type of diagnosable mental health problem.1 In most cases, there are treatment methods with which these individuals can get some level of relief from their symptoms, but even with medication there are no cures for mental illnesses. It’s humbling, not to mention a bit discouraging, to have so many solutions to offer the many people suffering from mental illnesses, and yet there’s very little we’re able to do in terms of offering them an actual remedy for their afflictions. Most discouragingly, the treatment options that exist are unavailable to almost half the people who need them since it’s estimated that 45 percent of all individuals suffering from mental illnesses aren’t receiving any sort of treatment.2
But a partnership between Walgreens and Mental Health America may make mental health treatment available on an on-demand basis.
Walgreens Offers an Online Mental Health Platform
In May of this year, it was announced that national drugstore chain Walgreens was partnering with Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit established more than a century ago, to help Americans achieve a greater level of mental health. The result of this partnership is a new platform Walgreens has launched on the company’s website that’s being described as a source for numerous helpful resources pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. This new platform, which Walgreens has referred to as a mental health answer center, is ambitious and quite clearly a product of the digital era in which we’re all turning to our smartphones, apps and social networks for increasingly essential tasks.
According to representatives of Walgreens, an inspiration for this project was the discovery that about 20 percent of Walgreens’ clientele suffer from mental health problems.3 In light of the many Americans who aren’t receiving any treatment for their mental health problems, this new platform available on the Walgreens website can offer a variety of pertinent resources provided by Mental Health America. Online screening tools for depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, which are afflictions that are consistently on lists of mental disorders affecting the greatest numbers of individuals,4 would be available to users.
The brilliance of the new Walgreens mental health platform becomes more apparent — and seems even more ambitious — after users complete a mental health screen. If the results of a screen are positive for a mental health condition, the platform refers the user to mental health professionals in his or her own community that can help with that specific issue. In fact, the ultimate end-game seems to be to inform the public in an effort to reduce mental health stigma, to provide on-demand screening tools for early intervention and to connect people to the mental health resources they need in their own communities.
Another interesting offering — and one that’s sure to get the most publicity — is the platform’s video therapy, which is almost exactly how it sounds. Users can participate in video chat sessions with one of over 1,000 state-licensed mental health practitioners who can help with a number of different issues, including addiction, stress and depression.5 The video therapy will cost users around $60 although it seems those who have insurance may be able to have their video therapy sessions covered by their insurance providers.
Is the Walgreens Mental Health Platform a Good Idea?
Mental health is a tricky subject. One of the most obvious potential problems with this platform is the video therapy aspect. Would a user who chats with a psychiatrist become one of the psychiatrist’s regular patients? Or would a user be connected to someone different each time? There are a lot of questions as to how actual psychotherapy could be conducted on such a platform without some type of scheduling.
However, if utilized merely as a source of information rather than for intensive counseling, the platform could be a great resource for individuals who have concerns about their mental health and who need help finding the right mental health care in their communities. In fact, despite the platform being an online, on-demand information source for users nationwide, it seems that one of the platform’s greatest strengths is connecting users with mental health services at the community-level, which is one of the most proactive ways of reducing the number of people with untreated mental health afflictions.
by Dane O’Leary