Virtual reality's growing role in treating mental illnesses



Virtual reality therapy in the Philippines?

Mental illness is the third most prevalent form of disability in the Philippines in 2000, according to the Department of Health. Schizophrenia, meanwhile, is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness among Filipinos, according to the World Health Organization’s report in 2007.

Although virtual reality therapy for schizophrenia has yet to be developed, virtual reality therapy can still benefit the hundreds of Filipinos who have depression and PTSD, both of which put people at risk of suicide.

The DOH report also noted the latest mortality rate due to suicide is 2.2 deaths per 100,000 Filipinos in 2004 and 2005, a rate that has been increasing since 2001.

“Considering the circumstances in our country, there seems to be a high risk for Filipinos to develop PTSD,” said Jenina Nalipay, a professor of Experimental Psychology at De La Salle University. ”Our country's geography makes it prone to natural disasters such as typhoons, floods, and earthquake; exposure to which could lead to PTSD.”

Despite the technology’s capabilities, the question of whether or not this can be fully adapted in the Philippines is still unanswered. Accessibility remains an issue especially in developing countries. The cost of virtual reality therapy has gone down since the inception of specialized virtual reality equipment used to treat war veterans. But headsets now are still marketed at $500-$800. Some companies also charge an annual subscription fee of around $1,200 for using their virtual reality therapy software.

In the simplest terms, the price of technology for mental health treatment might increase a lot of therapists’ fees, said Lowe. 

In developing countries, treatment of mental illnesses can be seen as a luxury instead of a necessity. According to a 2008 article from the World Health Organization, over 75% of mentally ill citizens of developing countries do not receive medical care.

This is partly because of stigma, “public ignorance,” lack of resources, and insufficient funds, said Dr. Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization at a forum in 2010.

“It seems relatively expensive, but if it can help with one's mental health and well-being, then it would be worth investing in,” said Nalipay. – Rappler.com

While this method of treatment is not available yet in the country, there are locally available medicine and other healthcare products you can opt for. Click here to see our best deals on healthcare products.