mHealth and global mental health: still waiting for the mH2 wedding?

28 Feb 2018

Background Two phenomena have become increasingly visible over the past decade: the significant global burden of disease arising from mental illness and the rapid acceleration of mobile phone usage in poorer countries. Mental ill-health accounts for a significant proportion of global disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and years lived with disability (YLDs), especially in poorer countries where a number of factors combine to exacerbate issues of undertreatment. Yet poorer countries have also witnessed significant investments in, and dramatic expansions of, mobile coverage and usage over the past decade. Debate The conjunction of high levels of mental illness and high levels of mobile phone usage in poorer countries highlights the potential for “mH2” interventions – i.e. mHealth (mobile technology-based) mental health interventions - to tackle global mental health challenges. However, global mental health movements and initiatives have yet to engage fully with this potential, partly because of scepticism towards technological solutions in general and partly because existing mH2 projects in mental health have often taken place in a fragmented, narrowly-focused, and small-scale manner. We argue for a deeper and more sustained engagement with mobile phone technology in the global mental health context, and outline the possible shape of an integrated mH2 platform for the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of mental health. Summary Existing and developing mH2 technologies represent an underutilised resource in global mental health. If development, evaluation, and implementation challenges are overcome, an integrated mH2 platform would make significant contributions to mental healthcare in multiple settings and contexts.