What if public health officials could track mental health crises as they happen? A new Mental Health America dashboard backed by Lundbeck looks to do just that.
The national dashboard will use historical and real-time data to target vulnerable local areas and deploy rapid-response care to hotspots as they surface.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect illustration of the need: The association reports a 93% increase in anxiety screenings and a 62% increase in depression screenings since the pandemic began. MHA's data also shows an uptick in loneliness, isolation, grief, economic insecurity and stress, all of which can worsen mental health symptoms.
While COVID-19 has certainly exacerbated mental-health problems, the partners are planning to use the dashboard as a long-term tool.
The association's localized data can help identify mental health hotspots as they emerge, Peter Anastasiou, Lundbeck’s executive VP and head of North America, said. “The hope is then to get that data, once it’s analyzed, early and try to allocate resources—make sure local authorities are aware, inform the local media and raise local awareness about the resources that exist," he said.
The partners plan to start by tapping MHA’s own database of more than 6 million mental health screenings since 2014, to identify high-risk communities and their needs.
Then, more time-sensitive data, such as an increase in self-reported suicidal thinking at the local level, can be layered on—almost in real time—to quickly deploy resources like additional screenings or telemedicine when and where it is needed.
The idea was born at the beginning of the pandemic when Lundbeck, which focuses exclusively on neuroscience, was looking for a way to help.
After talking to several leading advocacy groups, Lundbeck received the dashboard proposal from MHA, based on its accumulated data and the mental health spikes it was recording at the time. Lundbeck is the founding seed sponsor and plans to continue funding the project long-term.
“The analogy we would use is cancer,” Anastasiou said. “The prognosis for cancer is a lot better if there’s early intervention, early identification—it’s the same thing here. The earlier we can identify these issues and the trends, and mobilize resources, the better able we are to keep it from becoming a bigger issue.”
The effort is just beginning—a working model is expected by the end of the year—but the partners are already looking beyond the pandemic and where the dashboard could be useful, such as in the aftermath of natural disasters or local violence.