World Mental Health Day: Addressing Global Barriers to Mental Health Treatment

Mainul I Mondal, Founder and CEO of Ellipsis Health


World Mental Health Day is an important time to spotlight the global impact of mental health conditions and raise awareness to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. This day of recognition serves as an opportunity to reflect on the impact of mental health conditions on our global society and identify how we can all do more to eliminate stigmas to ensure that mental health care is available to anyone who needs it.


The global human impact of mental health issues is profound, as approximately 280 million people worldwide have depression – making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. Additionally, an estimated 284 million people around the world have experienced an anxiety disorder. It’s estimated that the cost to the global economy of all mental health problems could amount to $16 trillion by 2030.


Cultural differences and gender also impact what health means to each person. According to The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in some cultures people believe talking about a potentially poor health outcome will cause that outcome to happen. In other cultures, a person’s family may play a larger role in healthcare decision-making. Another barrier to care can be religious or spiritual beliefs that may impact a person’s willingness to accept specific health interventions. In other cases, people in underserved countries or communities may be barred from mental health care due to a lack of physical and financial resources. Additionally, women often have fewer opportunities for mental health care. These cultural barriers to care cannot be alleviated with health policy alone.


At Ellipsis Health, we are working tirelessly to address the mental health epidemic that is ravaging the globe by utilizing the unique power of voice to pioneer a new clinical standard in mental health care. As founder and CEO, I am passionate about creating resources for access to mental health conditions for people around the world, regardless of their gender, race, or socio-economic status. The goal at Ellipsis Health is to reduce crisis events for everyone, everywhere, so that people in need can get treatment from mental health professionals. This also includes fighting stigmas surrounding mental health that worsen these healthcare disparities, which create more issues for people who need treatment the most.


The global impact of mental health stigmas


The stigmatization of mental health conditions often prevents people who are suffering from seeking help. In fact, more than half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment for their conditions. The stigma of mental illness is one of the top reasons that people don’t receive the care they need, according to a study of over 90,000 people worldwide.


Stigmas surrounding mental health conditions may cause a lack of understanding by family, friends and co-workers, according to Mayo Clinic. Mental health stigmas can also lead to fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities, make it hard to find housing, and increase the risk of bullying, physical violence or harassment. Health insurance is also impacted by mental health stigma by not adequately covering a person’s treatment for their mental illness.


The World Health Organization shared that despite progress in some countries, people with mental health conditions often experience severe human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma. With depression being one of the leading causes of disability and suicide the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds, people with severe mental health conditions are dying prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to preventable physical conditions.


However, behavioral health conditions can be treated and managed for many. Looking at the future of mental health, it’s clear that globally we need to rethink how mental health conditions are treated and prioritized. Digital health applications are well-positioned to combat care access issues and aid those facing harsh stigmas. We must invest in mental health awareness tools to reduce stigma and leverage healthcare IT solutions to increase access to quality mental health care for behavioral health screening and longitudinal monitoring of symptoms and treatment efficacy.


Harnessing the unique power of voice to pioneer a new clinical standard in mental health care


Globally, voice is used as a measure of wellbeing. How people speak conveys their internal state in their tone, rhythm and emotion – not just in the words they use or ideas they speak about. Every day, healthcare providers, caregivers and loved ones use voice to share critical information. Despite the billions of conversations that happen each day, this rich source of information has been stuck in analog – unable to improve patient health through measurement-based care.


But now, Ellipsis Health is harnessing the unique power of voice to pioneer a new clinical standard in mental health care. By using less than 60 seconds of the words people say (semantics) and how they say them (acoustics), Ellipsis Health has created a voice-based vital sign that can identify, quantify and manage depression and anxiety symptoms at scale.


New applications like Ellipsis’ platform can make measurement-based mental health care possible anytime, anywhere. The scalable solution from Ellipsis Health helps clinicians close the mental health screening and monitoring gaps by quickly and reliably identifying at-risk individuals who need help sooner while providing visibility into people’s behavioral health over time and in-between care encounters. This powerful clinical support tool facilitates scalable behavioral health screening and longitudinal monitoring of symptoms and treatment efficacy.


Ellipsis Health’s vision for the future of global mental health


Ellipsis Health sees a future where voice will become the standard for measuring a person’s emotional health, giving clinicians and individuals valuable information so that no one falls through the cracks and crisis events are avoided. Additionally, the Ellipsis Health team aims to provide access to the voice vital sign at every hospital and clinic, on every telehealth call and integrated into every mobile device, smart speaker and earbud. This will be made possible as Ellipsis Health continues its mission to establish voice as an affordable, non-invasive vital sign as the next clinical standard in mental health care globally. Although we started in the United States, Ellipsis Health is working on training the technology for additional languages to make it available in any corner of the world via an internet-connected device.


For World Mental Health Day, we call on global leaders to recognize and address the stigmas surrounding mental health and we encourage them to explore digital health solutions to combat these systemic issues. Only by addressing these issues and the barriers to care will we be able to move toward a happier and healthier world. In our pursuit to aid world leaders in this effort, we’re committed to making our tool easily deployable to all and we remain committed to evolving our solution to maximize our global impact today and every day.