Saturday October 10 is World Mental Health Day. The overall objective of the day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilize efforts in support of mental health.
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), around one in four people in the world is affected by a form of mental disorder. These disorders include depression, schizophrenia and, increasingly, dementia.
The WHM Day focuses this year on the detrimental effects of COVID-19, as people with mental health conditions feel particularly isolated and fragile during the pandemic. Tools helping them to keep in touch with their entourage during confinement periods are particularly useful. They are key in preventing suicides by enabling medical staff to keep daily contact with patients at home, as well as helping institutionalized patients to keep contact with their families.
One of the striking revelations of this extraordinary period we are still living through is that active assisted living (AAL) services, which can be defined as systems and equipment which help senior citizens and people with disabilities or mental conditions to live independently at home, have saved many lives while costing less in terms of care.
IEC is leading the way in developing standards relating to AAL services. It set up a systems committee, IEC SyC AAL, to promote safety, security, privacy and cross-vendor interoperability in the use of AAL services. The SyC recently published IEC 63234-1, which establishes a framework for the economic evaluation of AAL services. IEC TC 100 develops standards for audio, video and multimedia systems. The TC set up a technical area (TA) to address aspects of AAL technology.
Treatment in a virtual world
New digital technologies are also helping to treat some conditions, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in an innovative fashion and can sometimes be adapted to home use.
One of the successful ways of treating PTSD is by using virtual reality (VR) to make people relive their traumatic experiences time and time again, until they no longer feel any form of stress or anxiety. This technology has been used for war veterans who, equipped with headsets, revisit the dangerous zones they were deployed in, for instance. VR headsets can be used at home and patients can be carefully monitored through telemedicine tools.
VR can also be used to treat depression and anxiety by enabling patients to experience a particularly pleasant and relaxing environment. For example, VR programmes allowing people to virtually swim in the sea with dolphins have had beneficial effects on depressive tendencies.
IEC has formed a joint technical committee with ISO, JTC 1, which prepares standards for information technology. One of its subcommittees publishes documents which specify the requirements for augmented reality (AR) and VR. IEC TC 110 publishes standards for electronic displays. One of its working groups has developed the first edition of IEC 63145-20-20, which establishes the measurement conditions for determining the image quality of eyewear displays.
For more information about mental health and technology, read: Mind games in the IEC e-tech magazine.