September 30, 2022

Decentralized mental health services could be the answer to a looming shortage of mental health professionals, according to professors at Baltimore-based John Hopkins University.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Dr. Johannes Thrul from the John Hopkins School of Mental Health supposedly that the mental health support sector could take a page from Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) by offering support services in a decentralized system.

Dr. Thrul authored an academic paper on July 22 looking at “Web3 and digital mental health,” envisioning a decentralized peer support system that relies on “people with lived experience” to provide help “based on their expertise in managing their own the conditions”.

Dr Thrul said the system would work using a “community-linked crypto token” which would reward those who “make positive contributions to the community”, such as helping someone overcome a mental health problem in a peer support environment .

He said the system would not be bound by “border restrictions,” noting how quickly governments adapted to remote health delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, though he admitted it could not replace the mainstream medical system alone. Instead, it could be used as a supplement to a visit to a traditional psychologist.

Another professor who contributed to the academic paper, Dr Luke Kalb, said a decentralized peer support system would offer more flexibility and freedom in how to approach mental health issues, stating:

“[The] The community can find its own creative ways to deal with problems […] this peer support system opens up so many opportunities for creativity.”

The professors noted that such a system may become essential in the future, given the possibility of a shortage of traditional mental health services in the future, as “61% of practicing psychiatrists in the US are approaching retirement.”

Related: Mental health and crypto: How does volatility affect well-being?

The publication also cited research from the Department of Health and Human Services predicting “a prolonged national workforce lack of to all mental health professionals by 2025″.

Although the professors have just begun the early stages of research, they hope to begin building the professional relationships necessary to see this happen. Dr. Thrul said, “it’s hard to find the right technical collaboration with the same shared vision […] However, we also want to put it out there as a call to read, focus and reach out.”