Sunday, September 8, 2013

Writing a New Chapter in the Mental Health Movement

It's Kasra here, and I'm super excited to finally share our online therapy solutions with with you all, but first a little bit of a background on why we created this solution.

Our society has made significant leaps in our understanding of mental health over the last century. We have gone from a very limited and bleak view of mental illness to classifying and treating mental disorders. As our understanding grew, the face of mental health changed. The most visible people with mental illness are the ones that are most severely affected by it, but we know that there are a many people suffering in silence. They are our family members, friends, and colleagues.

Old Face of Mental Illness
How people perceived mental illness as
depicted by Francisco Goya's 1824 painting 
New Face of Mental Health
Jim Carry famous Canadian comedian
actor has publicly battled with depression

In fact 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime. We are dealing with a problem of unprecedented scope and our current model of mental health service delivery does not have the capacity to help all those in need. There are shortages of trained professionals, there is local disparity in availability of services, getting help can be quite costly, and there is still a lot of stigma associated with seeking help.

How do you make mental health services accessible to more people?

To solve this problem we need to innovate and introduce a new approach for helping people achieve mental health. We need a solution that can be delivered to the masses, a solution that allows people to seek help regardless of the stigma we have today, a solution where cost is a not a barrier for people, a solution that can be accessed from anywhere.

Luckily the technology for such solution already exists. I don’t mean technology in a narrow sense of digital technology, although that is part of the solution. I mean it in a broader sense, the application of scientific knowledge for a practical purpose, in this case improving mental health. When it comes to mental health the body of scientific knowledge is called clinical psychology. Psychologist in this field have been developing and validating treatments for decades now, and more recently shown that you can effectively use computers to deliver psychotherapy.

Great! so we know we can effectively deliver therapy through computers, and we know internet is a great way to deliver applications to the masses. So, if you can adapt the psychotherapies for an online environment you can deliver psychotherapy to many people, at a lower cost, they can remain anonymous, and they can access it from anywhere anytime!

With the help and support of a few friends I set out to build and deliver this solution. It was a tall order, after reviewing a lot of academic research, writing an entire therapy manual adapted for an online environment, building and configuring the website, setting up a non-profit organization and two and half years later, we are ready to share the fruits of our labour with you!

We call it Interactive Therapy (also known as Computer-Assisted Therapy), it's a therapy program delivered online that you can complete on your own. You go through a series of sessions and each session teaches you important techniques that have been shown to help people improve their mental health. Our first program is called “Bliss”, an 8 session long therapy program for depressed mood, and we are offering it completely free at this time.

The program is offered through the website of the Not-for-profit organization we setup, called CIMHS. It stands for “Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions”, I know it’s a mouthful but most not-for-profit names are, so just use the acronym, CIMHS. We strongly believe that such technology should be owned by everyone and that’s why we picked a not-for profit structure, and we plan on operating it as a social business.

The next chapter of the Mental Health Movement is about empowering individuals through technology, and providing them with the tools that can help them improve their mental health. To that end we have created CIMHS and built our first program Bliss. This is just a beginning and there is a lot more work left to do, so join our cause and help us write the next chapter of the Mental Health Movement.

You can help by volunteering your time, helping us spread the message, and using our program.

I want to thank Sara, Julie, and Josh for all their help with getting this setup, and numerous other friends and family members for their support and excitement as they cheered us on.

We are so excited to finally share this with you! Hope you enjoy it and we are looking forward to your feedback.

So please head over to the site and let us know what you think.


Kasra Zokaei
Founder and Executive Director


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