Rooted in the ancient practice of branding people for transgressions, “stigma” began as a physical emblem of social disapproval. In our modern society, its figurative meaning persists and presents a significant challenge for those experiencing mental illness. Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health conditions struggle with stigma and its negative effect on their lives. To make matters worse, some individuals living with mental health conditions believe that the stigma they encounter is even worse than the illness itself. The fear of being labeled “crazy” or “insane” prevents 60% of them from seeking help. These statistics demand our attention because they represent real people in need of help – they are not just mere numbers. To positively impact the people behind these statistics, there needs to be focus on exploring new ideas, solutions, and technology.
Stigma is among the most significant barrier for individuals seeking help for their mental health. Approximately 75% of individuals expressed reluctance to disclose a mental illness to an employer or co-worker citing fears of being treated differently or judged. This social stigma perpetuates a sense of shame and isolation, resulting in many suffering in silence. Stigma makes it difficult to discuss issues openly and causes delays in seeking care as individuals may even hesitate to acknowledge their own mental health needs. In a recent survey, 23% of respondents were too embarrassed to seek help and therefore delayed the start of their journey to improving their mental health. Additionally, limited options for mental health services, particularly in underserved and rural areas, add to the challenge these individuals face when seeking appropriate care, leaving them without accessible resources for support. In rural areas especially, people often encounter stigma stemming from their limited opportunities for human connection beyond their existing communities, leading to heightened isolation and a sense of detachment from broader society. Almost half of individuals (44%) struggling with mental health report that their needs are unmet, further emphasizing the impact of limited options and the urgent need to address the stigma surrounding mental health. To improve overall accessibility and reduce stigma, advancements in technology offer a promising solution to improve mental health outcomes in society.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital health solutions saw a massive surge in use. Telehealth solutions alone experienced a 3x increase in utilization in only three short months in 2020. Digital platforms can also help to effectively combat the social stigma surrounding mental health by providing convenient resources for support. These platforms allow individuals to access mental health support right from the comfort of their homes, which significantly reduces another common obstacle to seeking care: travel. Accessible care in a familiar, private environment empowers individuals to overcome hesitations and more easily find support when needed. These technologies are not only increasing access to care but also bridging the gap for individuals in rural areas, offering personalized care and virtual support groups. By using digital solutions, individuals in remote areas can foster connections with new virtual communities, experience a renewed sense of belonging, and break down some of the barriers caused by stigma. With 54% of individuals experiencing mental health issues reporting that they have not sought support, the rise of digital mental health solutions can play a crucial role in expanding access to care and addressing the associated stigma.
Verto remains committed to making a positive impact by improving access to mental health services using digital solutions. Verto is currently working with Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO) to improve access to high-quality Integrated Youth Services (IYS) for Ontario’s youth aged 12-25. Additionally, Verto is partnering with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to create a “Digital Front Door” which will streamline access to integrated mental health services and provide a stigma-free online experience for patients and families. Verto’s stigma-free and supportive solutions ensure that everyone, regardless of their location or circumstances, can find the help they deserve without fear or hesitation. Through co-design and collaboration with leading mental health partners, Verto aims to transform care delivery, reduce stigma, and empower individuals to achieve their best possible outcomes.
To see Verto’s digital front door technology in action, book a demo today and see for yourself how improved access is the first step towards improved outcomes for mental health.