women mental healthThe latest suicide statistics showing that 6,233 people aged over 15 took their own lives in the UK in 2013, 'highlight the need for better access to mental health therapy', according to Ieso Digital Health.

There were 252 more suicides in 2013 than the previous year, giving a rate of 11.9 per 100,000, according to figures published by the Office of National Statistics. The worst suicide rate was among men aged 45 to 59, at 25.1 deaths per 100,000 – the highest for that age group since 1981.

In an effort to reverse these trends, Ieso Digital Health is offering cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) online, via live written conversation with a British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)-accredited therapist. Patients can start therapy within days at a time and location of their convenience via a computer, tablet or smartphone, negating the need for travel or time off work.

The method, using written communications, disinhibits patients, which makes them more likely to disclose personal information openly and candidly. It also provides an opportunity for more embedded learning than face-to-face CBT by reading and writing rather than speaking and listening.

Ieso Digital Health’s chief executive, Barnaby Perks, said: “There is growing recognition that untreated mental health problems are having a huge impact on individuals, families and wider society. Suicides are the most devastating consequence, but represent the tip of the mental health iceberg.

“The focus on providing ‘parity of esteem’ in mental health services, including access targets, is welcome – but in order to ensure everyone who needs therapy gets it, we need to look at new models of care that make better use of the technology at our disposal.

“We believe our game-changing service is part of the solution to the UK’s enormous mental health challenge. If our approach was adopted widely enough, we could help more people with mental illness, for example, those who are put off by long waiting times, restricted mobility, their working schedule, or simply silenced by stigma and cultural taboo.”

Zero suicide policy
The service is already available free to NHS patients via 20 different contracts around England, and people can also access it privately. It currently receives about 500 referrals every month, although that number is growing.

Online therapy delivered by Ieso Digital Health has been clinically validated and evidence shows it heals people just as effectively as face-to-face therapy:

• An analysis of 369 patients at Ieso Digital Health’s most mature contract in Surrey showed 52% achieved recovery compared to 45% nationally for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)
• 68% of patients achieved a reliable improvement versus 60% for IAPT
• The average patient in the trial needed 50% less time with their therapist to achieve recovery, compared to IAPT
• Patient engagement is higher – only 12% of patients failed to attend sessions, compared to 33% for face-to-face CBT.

Mental illness is estimated to cost the UK economy more than £100 billion per year. With the government introducing new waiting time targets for talking therapies from April, as well as a ‘zero suicide’ policy, Perks added that the Ieso services can help meet commissioners need to find treatments that can be rolled out quickly.Z