Psychology guru Jason Freeman told Express.co.uk the UK is in the midst of a “crisis in mental health.” Mr Freeman, who is co-founder of start-up Oxford VR, is researching how ways of using virtual reality (VR) to alleviate some of these mental health concerns. He explained: “What we’re about is making the best psychological therapies available to as many people as possible – that’s our mission.
“We know that there’s a crisis in mental health.
“We know that around one in four people will experience a diagnosable psychological disorder over the next year.
“And we also know that there are many very effective psychological therapies for those disorders.
“But there’s a real shortage of therapists, so we have a real access problem.
“So what we want to do, and we think VR is a particularly potent way of doing this, is to make those really effective treatments available to as many people as we can using immersive technologies.”
One of the most successfully treated ailments was acrophobia, or fear of heights.
Having built a VR scenario of a shopping mall in which the patient ascends in a lift gradually higher and performs tasks at incrementally greater heights, Oxford VF found that all participants in the 100-strong trial group showed a reduction in fear of heights, with the average reduction being 68.0%.
Half of the participants in the VR group had a reduction in fear of heights by over three quarters.
Oxford VR claims that these results are better than those expected with the best psychological intervention delivered face to face with a therapist.
In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope.
It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.