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Develop evidence-based policy and practice guidelines for digital mental healthcare and make digital programs and services more accessible and equitable.

"Though digital mental health may improve access, there are also risks that it might exacerbate inequities in access to care among high-risk populations who may face poorer digital resources or other barriers. Equity-oriented research is needed to identify needs and gaps to equitable digital health care delivery." (TEAM-CAP)

Early study results show that there is a need to develop and disseminate guidelines to support the implementation of digital mental health care and psychosocial support that takes into account the context of delivery. Due to the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital care was rolled out quickly and often in an ad hoc manner. Policy makers, healthcare and psychosocial service providers note the need for clear guidelines to support evidence-based policy and practice. Guidelines must be tailored for various implementation contexts (e.g. high, low and middle-income countries, urban and rural settings) to ensure implementation and delivery viability in each setting. There is a gap in digital care that is accessible and acceptable for many diverse service user groups, including culturally and linguistically diverse populations, sexual and gender minority populations, people living with disabilities, youth and other equity-seeking populations. There is a need to meaningfully engage these service users in the development of digital mental health care options to ensure they best meet the needs of these populations. Challenges of access to Internet connectivity or devices are pervasive and vary across contexts. An increase in the availability of digital mental health services has the potential to improve access to care by people living in areas that are underserved by in-person mental health and psychosocial support services. However, in some contexts, such as low- and middle-income countries and rural and remote settings, Internet availability may be low or costly. With the expected shift to digital or hybrid models of mental health care in the long term, there is an urgent need for governments to invest in infrastructure that supports equitable access to reliable Internet connectivity. Additionally, many populations might not have access to digital devices such as smartphones or tablets that would enable them to access digital care options. Initiatives including public-private partnerships to support device availability are also needed to promote equitable access to digital mental health care. Research exploring equity considerations related to digital mental health is limited, especially from low-and middle-income countries. Future research, including both effectiveness and implementation studies, must include equity considerations that may inform policy and practice recommendations for digital mental health care.

Supporting research

  • Technology and Equitable Access for Mental Healthcare in a post-COVID Asia Pacific (TEAM-CAP)

    University of British Columbia

  • Service provider perspectives on tools to improve access to mental health supports for sexual and gender diverse populations: A qualitative research study

    Simon Fraser University
    Provider perspectives2S/LGBTQ+Virtual careCOVID-19Service user perspectives

BC Alliance for Monitoring Mental Health Equity respectfully acknowledges that the land on which we work is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations.

BC Alliance for Monitoring Mental Health Equity

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