The reality that “healthcare is everywhere” could not have become more apparent during the emergence and global grip of COVID 19. The pandemic united billions in health insecurity, and led to an increase in mental health difficulties, mental illness and decreased well-being, impacting just about every aspect of our lives (Ivbijaro, Brooks, Kolkiewicz, Sunkel & Long, 2020). For me, healthcare includes the whole person – biological, psychological, social, and spiritual and this can be found everywhere because we are constantly processing our bio-psycho-social-spiritual wellness. As COVID-19 has proven, the most severe and persistent mental illnesses involve an enduring bio-psychosocial vulnerability that causes an individual to be very sensitive to environmental stress, like the never ending “news cycle” of new cases, deaths, and lockdowns (Juvva & Newhill 2011). By having almost instant access to COVID related data by way of daily news conferences, Twitter feeds, websites or internal health team emails many of us could not escape the mammoth beast of the global pandemic. This, for many, led to almost a “community relapse” in wellness again amplifying the reality that healthcare truly is everywhere. A relapse of illness can occur for any of us when stressful life events or daily levels of tension arise and overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope and function (Juvva & Newhill, 2011).
One great counterbalance that technology offers, and which also speaks to the fact that healthcare is everywhere, is the emergence of health-related apps geared to core mindfulness, grounding, and recovery. One such app which I try to use regularly is “Calm.com,” focused on the following pillars of wellness: improving sleep, reducing stress or anxiety, improving focus, and general self-improvement (Calm, 2021). This app offers friendly “prompts” which can help us with deep breathing exercises, affirming quotes, or simply positive psychology. I have found this to be very helpful especially during COVID 19 – and particularly like how accessible it is.
For all the reasons mentioned above, during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth technologies and mental health apps have been promoted to manage distress in the public and to augment existing mental health services; however, mobile app usage raise ethical concerns regarding the autonomy of the person using the app (Cosgrove, Karter, Morrill & McGinley, 2021). In particular, something called “surveillance capitalism” is a concern we should all be aware of when utilizing 3rd party platforms. In short, mental health apps may take individuals at their most vulnerable and make them part of a hidden supply chain for the marketplace (Cosgrove et al., 2021).
There is also a concern with some online resources and forums that are not monitored. There could be inaccurate and even harmful information for anyone to access. An article I read spoke of people with eating disorders using technology to engage with others. When used to support recovery, it can be a great resource, but it can also have the opposite effect. There are some people who post online glorifying thinness, encourage eating disorder behaviours and discourage treatment seeking behaviours (Basterfield, Dimitropoulos, Bills, Cullen & Freeman, 2018).
Some people may also “Google” their symptoms and diagnose themselves without even seeing a health care professional.
Dr. Dennis explained that there are millions of medical sites, blogs, and wiki pages on the internet, and whether intentional or not, the information may be confusing, overwhelming, panic-inducing, and sometimes simply incorrect (Abassi, 2015). The information they read about can make them scared and anxious (Abassi, 2015).
I believe there is definitely a fine line between the benefits and risks of people being able to access health related information on the internet.
Abbasi, J. (2015, May 29). The dangers of using google to self diagnose. Women’s Health. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19925917/cyberchondria/
Basterfield, A., Dimitropoulos, G., Bills, D., Cullen, O., & Freeman, V. E. (2018). “I would love to have online support but I don’t trust it”: Positive and negative views of technology from the perspective of those with eating disorders in Canada. Health & Social Care in the Community, 26(4), 604–612. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12557
Calm. (2021). About Calm. Retrieved from https://www.calm.com/blog/about
Cosgrove, L., Karter, J. M., Morrill, Z., & McGinley, M. (2020). Psychology and Surveillance Capitalism: The Risk of Pushing Mental Health Apps During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 60(5), 611–625. https://doi-org.ezproxy.loyno.edu/10.1177/0022167820937498
Ivbijaro, G., Brooks, C., Kolkiewicz, L., Sunkel, C., & Long, A. (2020). Psychological impact and psychosocial consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic Resilience, mental well-being, and the coronavirus pandemic. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 62, S395–S403. https://doi- o rg.ezproxy.loyno.edu/10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_1031_20
Juvva, S., & Newhill, C. (2011). Rehabilitation Contexts: A Holistic Approach. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 21(2), 179–195. https://doi-org.ezproxy.loyno.edu/10.1080/10911359.2010.525081