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Global governance toolkit for digital mental health

A toolkit from the World Economic Forum and Deloitte.

The health, climate, and political crises in recent times, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have exacerbated the world’s mental health challenges. Disruptive technology offers a tremendous opportunity to transform our approach to mental health. But can the ethical dilemmas arising out of the innovations be addressed?

Mental health is a huge burden on the global health care system, people’s social needs, human rights, and the economy. Yet, it is highly under-recognised. Between a quarter and half of the global population is affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives. Those battling with unattended mental health problems are unable to realise their true potential and are often exposed to risks on many different levels. The impact on the economy is significant – between 2011 and 2030, the cumulative economic output loss associated with mental disorders is projected to be US$ 16.3 trillion worldwide.

Mental health challenges exacerbated in 2020 as the COVID-19 virus worked its way across the globe and catastrophes such as bushfires and political unrest unleashed serious destruction. But social distancing and shutdowns also accelerated digital change unlocking a huge opportunity to transform global mental health and behavioural health systems.

Digital mental health

Disruptive technology has tremendous potential to make our global mental health and behavioural health systems more fit-for-purpose, affordable, and scalable, particularly for countries and people who currently do not have adequate access to these services. But despite the potential, the new tools and services come with safety and efficacy concerns, as well as ethical questions related to the use of data. Our existing regulatory structures do not have answers to these concerns, leaving exposure to risks.

The World Economic Forum and Deloitte have explored the ethical concerns presented by disruptive technology in mental health and have developed a toolkit that offers a framework of governance principles, standards, and processes that can be adopted by stakeholders as a code of ethics, regulatory standards, or simply as a kitemark of compliance, with a means for adapting these to different jurisdiction’s cultural, legal, medical, and clinical situations. The toolkit will enable stakeholders to embrace validated digital mental health services safely, strategically, and ethically, by focusing on growing trust in digital mental health services through assurance and transparency.

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