Recent years have seen a surge in media coverage of topics related to mental health. Mental illness is no longer considered taboo and people living with it are opening up about their problems, without fear of experiencing social stigma. This mindset shift, coupled with the breakneck pace of technological development, has profoundly transformed mental health counselling, ushering in an era of online mental health services (e-mental health care). Remote mental health counselling platforms have revolutionised the accessibility of mental health services, making them easily obtainable, cheaper and more convenient, also ensuring greater anonymity. This assistance model also serves to boost the efficiency of mental health professionals, who now enjoy more space to focus on patients with severe mental disorders.
The healthcare system is currently facing numerous challenges when it comes to mental health services. One of them consists in enhancing responsiveness to prevent suicide and manage mental crises by means of earlier proactive identification of vulnerable patients. The growing demand for a better and more cost-effective way to prevent, identify and treat mental conditions is a result of the widespread prevalence of depression, the adverse effects of mood disorders and soaring treatment costs.
Numerous online platforms have been created to address these issues by helping to identify, prevent and treat mental problems. E-mental health services have proved to be highly successful and cost-effective. They are defined as automated evidence-based Internet programmes used to provide therapeutic content directly to consumers, either with or without the involvement of a healthcare practitioner. Online access can make standard therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, available to multiple patients at a fraction of the cost associated with on-site sessions. As regards preventing mental health disorders, online services may be helpful to patients experiencing some seemingly insignificant symptoms which do not meet the clinical criteria of a mental disorder, but which could imply an increased risk of depression in the future. Online services are also used to raise social awareness of mental health, and consequently, to alleviate the stigma associated with mental conditions.
Despite the elevated demand for mental health support in the modern world, language barriers may represent a serious obstacle to the accessibility of online services. E-mental health care may not be a good fit for users who are not fluent in the language the services are offered in, as it may be challenging for them to effectively describe their emotions and fears in a foreign language. Even those who speak a foreign language daily may sometimes find themselves at a loss for words, unable to express their feelings as precisely as they would in their mother tongue, which may seriously hamper effective diagnosis. The effectiveness of online services, such as therapy, counselling, self-help tools or reliable sources of information about mental health, will largely depend on the precision, simplicity and inclusiveness of the translation (also with respect to gender, age, lifestyle, culture, etc.). When dealing with topics as sensitive as mental health, translators must be able to precisely grasp all of the linguistic nuances and cultural context. Ensuring high-quality translation into various languages may determine a platform’s subsequent therapeutic and health prevention success and help to reach a wider range of users with its resources, such as interactive tools or information. This, in turn, will make them more likely to commit to nurturing their own mental health. E-mental health interventions require the disseminated content to be adequately matched to the target groups’ literacy, including health and digital literacy. Digital app developers should be guided by an initial assessment of how understandable the content is to its intended audiences, while at the same time ensuring that it can be presented clearly, as well as seamlessly displayed across a range of different platforms and systems (such as tablets, computers and smartphones). In addition, the apps should feature easily accessible tutorial videos with the necessary translations to support those less adept at navigating the digital space.
E-mental health services are gaining in relevance as a tool for individuals in need of assistance, while integrated translations play an essential role in ensuring the effectiveness of online platforms. E-Mental Health platforms can address the language barrier by making culturally competent psychological support available to people with various levels of language proficiency. KONTEKST experts have the necessary know-how and tools to support app developers in providing adequate, culturally-sensitive translations. Together, we can seek to improve the mental wellbeing of our communities, without excluding linguistic minorities or individuals living in remote areas.