Mental Health First

Mental Health First
Awareness that mental health is as vital as physical health has grown increasingly prevalent in recent years. Traditionally not a huge consideration in clinical trials, signs are showing of late that the research industry is growing increasingly aware of its importance. Measures are now being embraced more often that take the mental burden of trial participation into consideration, as well as the physical.

While in many cases, relief at being able to participate in a trial, receiving a drug for a difficult condition and/or a feeling of wellbeing at contributing to the greater good can improve the mental health of a participant, in others, stress and anxiety may be heightened. Patients may be fearful that the trial drug won’t be effective, or that it may cause adverse effects or, indeed, be a placebo. Financial and practical concerns too can lead to anxiety and depression.

So what can be done to improve the patient experience? Here are three ideas which can help improve the patient experience:

  • Monitoring Mental Health Feedback
Adding questions about emotional wellbeing into electronic patient diaries allows doctors to follow up with patients who might need additional support and paints a more holistic picture of the effects of trial participation.

  • Access to Support
Onboarding materials provided to patients can also direct them toward resources which support mental health — one-on-one counselling and mental health practitioners, for example, who can be accessed either during or subsequent to the trial period — mental health issues can, after all, arise at any time.

  • More Inclusive Protocols
Trial criteria which excludes people with psychiatric problems from enrolling is another area which could be examined to widen the participant pool. For example, figures in the US show that 1 in 5 adults experience a mental health problem which renders a sizeable portion of the population ineligible to take part in trials. Re-examination of trial protocols to make them more specific and detailed, could enable more and more of these people to participate.

Such additional care will yield benefits for the industry as a whole. Making trials kinder will certainly decrease drop-out rates and will also increase diversification of subjects. It stands to reason that caring for mental health will improve the overall patient experience, leading to better results for all.
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