Common themes and emerging trends for the use of technology to support mental health and psychosocial well-being in limited resource settings: A review of the literature.

Peer-reviewed article
(2019 Nov) Psychiatry Res, 281 112594


Kaonga NN, Morgan J


There are significant disparities in access to mental health care. With the burgeoning of technologies for health, digital tools have been leveraged within mental health and psychosocial support programming (eMental health). A review of the literature was conducted to understand and identify how eMental health has been used in resource-limited settings in general. PubMed, Ovid Medline and Web of Science were searched. Six-hundred and thirty full-text articles were identified and assessed for eligibility; of those, 67 articles met the inclusion criteria and were analyzed. The most common mental health use cases were for depression (n = 25) and general mental health and well-being (n = 21). Roughly one-third used a website or Internet-enabled intervention (n = 23) and nearly one-third used an SMS intervention (n = 22). Technology was applied to enhance service delivery (n = 32), behavior change communication (n = 26) and data collection (n = 8), and specifically dealt with adherence (n = 7), ecological momentary assessments (n = 7), well-being promotion (n = 5), education (n = 8), telemedicine (n = 28), machine learning (n = 5) and games (n = 2). Emerging trends identified wearables, predictive analytics, robots and virtual reality as promising areas. eMental health interventions that leverage low-tech tools can introduce, strengthen and expand mental health and psychosocial support services and can be a starting point for future, advanced tools.