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Minding your business: how psychedelics, personalized care, and AI are transforming the mental health conversation

Miro Dimitrov

Edited by Julia Myers and Sarah Gupta

The pandemic has impacted the mental health of many people, whether or not they struggled with mental illnesses previously. With social pressures, job insecurities, and the loss of loved ones due to coronavirus, many people reported increased rates of depression and anxiety. Now, as the holiday season kicks off, it can bring stress and exacerbate existing mental health conditions. Soon, we'll be heading into 2022, and some people will use the New Year to prioritize wellness and self-care.

After recent experiences, there will likely be a long-term impact on the way we view mental health, pushing people to consider varied approaches to mental healthcare. While many people do take advantage of traditional therapy, our platform has also noted increased mindshare around different approaches that reflect the current moment, which includes a heavy emphasis on technology. In this piece, we’ll share several signals about psychedelic therapies, accessible treatments, and personalized care.

Psychedelic therapy

Though psychedelics were studied to treat psychiatric disorders more than 50 years ago, government regulation and subsequent stigma halted progress. Since the 1950s, LSD has been shown to help reduce anxiety in terminally ill patients, while MDMA has been shown to help those with PTSD. Now, years later, the conversation is part of the mainstream: Seattle and other cities have decriminalized certain psychedelics, and the psychedelic industry is booming. Psychedelic therapy has been used to treat various mental illnesses, and there are hopes that continuing public interest will fund research in the field.

1. Microdosing: a macro trend

NWO.ai's Signals for Microdosing and Psychedelic Therapy

Another term that has become commonplace: microdosing. This refers to the practice of consistently taking very small amounts of a psychoactive drug, like psilocybin, in order to improve mental health. While many proponents of the practice claim to have benefited from its effects, others believe that more research is needed to rule out placebo effects. Our platform has noted a +2457% increase in Impact Score for “microdosing” over the past few years, alongside a +2183% boost in “psychedelic therapy.” NWO.ai’s platform predicts that interest in the topic will likely continue to be a part of global mindshare.

2. Shrooms, scientifically studied

NWO.ai's Signal for Psilocybin

Most recently, a large trial found that psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” was effective in treating depression. Our platform has noted a significant uptick in Impact Score for “psilocybin” since the study’s results were released in early November, with a +5414% increase over the past few years. Combined with decriminalization in several states and ongoing conversations on alternative approaches to age-old issues, this recent surge in interest lays the groundwork for further research on this topic, and could potentially be life-changing for many who struggle with depression.

3. Therapy with a side of… ketamine?

NWO.ai's Signal for Ketamine Therapy

Recent revelations on the effectiveness of ketamine have made the controversial drug a major talking point in the healthcare industry, and our platform noted a +1345% growth in Impact Score over the past few years for “ketamine therapy.” Since ketamine is already an FDA-approved drug, often used as an anesthetic during surgeries, it may be more readily adopted. Though there are concerns about drug abuse, it can be a powerful antidepressant when used in conjunction with psychotherapy treatment. Since this is such a niche field, it’s a perfect opportunity for startups like Nue Life Health that aim to make this treatment more accessible and affordable through telehealth.

Access granted

In the last several years, it’s no surprise that people more frequently turn to apps to access information and carry out common tasks like grocery shopping or restaurant reservations. Certain members of the population, like Gen Z, are primarily on their phones but are also more likely to report mental health concerns. As such, it’s quite encouraging that there are also a large number of mobile applications available to provide mental healthcare.

With a surge of interest in mental health and social good apps, self-help has become commonplace. Many people are in dire need of mental healthcare, but struggle to reach providers or access medications. However, people who face difficulties in finding support could benefit from apps that are created with ease of access in mind.

1. Your next therapist could be a robot

NWO.ai's Signal for Mental Health Chatbot

One of the limitations to on-demand therapy is that human counselors may not always be available. However, recent developments with AI chatbots offer another avenue for people who may even want completely anonymized mental healthcare. These chatbots are still relatively new to the therapy world, so it is yet to be determined how the quality of care may differ and what the potential drawbacks may be. In the last couple of years, NWO.ai’s platform has picked up a +1022% increase in Impact Score for “mental health chatbot,” and the Impact Score is projected to remain high. Chatbots won’t be replacing in-person therapy anytime soon, but for those with limited access to mental health help or seeking a more convenient approach, AI solutions offer a lifeline, literally.

2. BetterHelp in a time of need

NWO.ai's Signal for BetterHelp

With the myriad of pandemic-related stressors in 2020, many people experienced an increase in their average screen time, while also continuing to struggle with mental health. The rise of mental health apps such as BetterHelp sought to address this problem by using a modality that was already comfortable for many users. Through mobile apps, accessibility to therapists is quick, easy, and often affordable. Over the past few years, NWO.ai’s platform has noted a +461% boost in Impact Score for “BetterHelp.” However, it is worth noting that the tone associated with BetterHelp has dropped significantly in the last month. After his fatal AstroWorld concert, Travis Scott partnered with BetterHelp to offer a free month to attendees, which resulted in mixed responses from the public. As of now, it is hard to tell if this could result in a potential negative backlash against the platform itself or if it only serves to drive the conversation about accessible mental health treatments.

3. Therapeutics gone digital

NWO.ai's Signal for Pear Therapeutics and Mindbloom

While slick mental health apps are on the rise, dropouts rates are concerning, with low engagement rates meaning benefits for the vast majority of users are minimal. However, some apps are setting themselves apart with FDA approved services: Pear Therapeutics sets up substance abuse treatment plans with healthcare professionals, and Mindbloom offers ketamine and therapy sessions with prescribed medication and personal guides. Over the past year, these two companies have grown in Impact Score by +692% and +388%, respectively. These prescription digital therapeutics can offer more utility to people seeking mental health services that previously could only be administered in person.

This time, it’s personal

We’ve previously written about personalized nutrition as a breakout trend we predicted to remain of interest to consumers. Now, we see this theme of personalization extend to the mental health field, with various companies touting personalized mental healthcare as a selling point.

1. Lyra Health has your back

NWO.ai's Signal for Lyra Health

Not only does Lyra Health continue the trend of easier mental health access as mentioned above, but it also claims to offer more personalized healthcare benefits. While their focus is employee mental health, they use data-driven approaches to match customers to the best possible care solution. In the past few years, the Impact Score for “Lyra Health” has grown +969%, and is predicted to remain high. Lyra Health claims to help employers as well, increasing efficiency and decreasing the overall cost with more effective, personalized solutions for employees instead of broad-sweeping policies.

2. AI knows what’s on your mind

NWO.ai's Signal for AI Health <> AI Mental Health

AI applications are far and wide in various industries, whether it’s how NWO.ai’s platform leverages natural language processing to uncover insights, or computer vision creating a safer experience with self-driving cars. Importantly, it can also be used in mental healthcare innovation: some companies like Nurosene claim to find patterns among users’ mental health issues and personalize their treatment experience. Though the inclusion of AI in Nurosene’s advertising is an effective marketing ploy, the application of machine learning to mental health conversations is appealing to consumers looking for a more personalized care experience – or at least one that “feels” personalized. While apps such as Nurosene that are open about data collection may still cause unease among customers concerned about confidentiality, users are increasingly open to sacrificing privacy for the sake of a better experience. Does AI drastically improve diagnosis and personalized care? It’s yet to be proven, but the hype certainly exists.

Mind over matter: mental health is here to stay

Mental health is more important than ever – it’s a priority not only for Millenials and Gen Z embracing tech solutions and innovative chemicals but also for companies looking for efficient healthcare solutions and anyone affected by the fallout of the pandemic. Personalization is the name of the game, and apps are tailored to individual experiences, from telehealth ketamine therapy to chatbots that offer 24/7 support. As consumers adjust to the idea of sacrificing privacy for superior care, AI serves as a buzzword for companies marketing innovative alternatives to traditional therapy. The importance of mental health has truly become evident in the past year, and demand for better care is only on the rise. Whether apps, AI, or microdosing are permanent solutions has yet to be proven, but one thing is for certain: mental health is on everyone’s mind.  

About NWO.ai
NWO.ai's predictive platform enables leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to anticipate and track global cultural shifts by aggregating, analyzing, and producing actionable reports on human-generated data. We are leveraging petabytes of external, noisy, and unstructured data from various sources including search, social media, blogs, news, patent databases, SEC filings and we are continuously adding more sources. Our mission is to answer the what, when, and most importantly, 'why' behind a consumer trend and enable our customers to detect these shifts as early as possible.

P.S.  We're hiring! Check out our open positions and let us know if you'd be a good fit for our team. We're growing quickly and adding several engineering roles to help us decode the anatomy of next.

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