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Digital technology and mental health – help us pick the priorities for research

Digital technology is often talked about as having the potential to transform mental healthcare - connecting people, services and data in new and exciting ways. But, given this promise we need to ensure that the hype doesn’t flounder for lack of good evidence - and that future research advances tackle the questions and issues that matter the most.

I am a Research Fellow at NIHR MindTech Healthcare Technology Co-operative, my team and I have built a collaborative project to work with the James Lind Alliance to identify research questions about using digital technologies for mental health problems, and then prioritise them. Working with a number of charities and organisations, including MQ, our goal is to find out the 10 questions people with lived experience of mental health problems and health and social care professionals think are the most important. 

Back in the Spring 2017 we opened up a consultation inviting people to send us their questions about digital technology for mental health. At the time, we didn’t know how many people would respond or how many questions would be they would have. We now know that over 600 people had around 1,500 questions! Wow - that’s a lot! 

In the mix were questions about a wide range of technologies - everyday things like apps, SMS text messaging, email, video calling, social media and online forums. And more cutting-edge innovations such as computer games, artificial intelligence, chatbots, virtual reality, wearables and sensors. The questions covered a wide range of issues, from getting access and removing barriers to digital, to ensuring technologies are used in the most effective way. Many people asked about whether digital is intended to replace human face-to-face contact and if so, what will be lost – or what are the benefits? There were concerns about how the growth of digital would affect different groups, like older people, young people, people from different cultural backgrounds and those who are socially-disadvantaged.

Now we need you to pick the top 10! 

Now we've gathered all the questions – 134 to be exact – we want to find out which matter the most to people. To reach our final list of the most important 10 research priorities, we need lots of people to pick their personal top 10. Each person will have their own view on the important areas for future research, their personal experience of how digital can be used, its benefits and the challenges will vary from person to person. That’s okay, everyone’s votes will be counted.   

All we need is a few minutes of your time to complete this short survey.

It’ll take about 10 minutes to complete and at the end you can enter a prize draw for one of three fab prizes - £50 to spend at Amazon, a subscription to the Mental Elf  (three available) or a subscription to the Evidence Based Mental Health journal (three available). The survey will stay open into early 2018 - tell all your family, friends and colleagues about it and get them choosing their top 10.

What happens next?

Once we’ve heard from everyone we’ll count up the votes for each question to find the top ranked 25. These questions will be discussed, debated and ranked at the one day workshop in March 2018. A group of 30 people with a range of experiences and perspectives will work together to agree which questions are the 10 most important for research. Next, we’ll publicise these questions so that researchers and research funders know where to focus their attention. We’ll update you on the workshop and final top 10 in spring 2018.  

Go to the survey to pick your own top 10. 

Last updated: 8 January 2018

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