Digital Innovations for Global Mental Health: Opportunities for Data Science, Task Sharing, and Early Intervention



Globally, individuals living with mental disorders are more likely to have access to a mobile phone than mental health care. In this commentary, we highlight opportunities for expanding access to and use of digital technologies to advance research and intervention in mental health, with emphasis on the potential impact in lower resource settings.

Recent findings

Drawing from empirical evidence, largely from higher income settings, we considered three emerging areas where digital technology will potentially play a prominent role: supporting methods in data science to further our understanding of mental health and inform interventions, task sharing for building workforce capacity by training and supervising non-specialist health workers, and facilitating new opportunities for early intervention for young people in lower resource settings. Challenges were identified related to inequities in access, threats of bias in big data analyses, risks to users, and need for user involvement to support engagement and sustained use of digital interventions.


For digital technology to achieve its potential to transform the ways we detect, treat, and prevent mental disorders, there is a clear need for continued research involving multiple stakeholders, and rigorous studies showing that these technologies can successfully drive measurable improvements in mental health outcomes.

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Dr. Naslund reports receiving support from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), grant number: U19MH113211.

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Correspondence to John A. Naslund PhD.

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John A. Naslund declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Pattie P. Gonsalves declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Oliver Gruebner declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Sachin R. Pendse declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Stephanie L. Smith declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Amit Sharma declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Giuseppe Raviola declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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Naslund, J.A., Gonsalves, P.P., Gruebner, O. et al. Digital Innovations for Global Mental Health: Opportunities for Data Science, Task Sharing, and Early Intervention. Curr Treat Options Psych 6, 337–351 (2019).

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  • Digital technology
  • Global mental health
  • Big data
  • Task sharing
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Early intervention