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By Selena Chavis
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on October 2, 2010 

Can a virtual world help people better manage their health? Developers of a new computer program believe it can.

Developers of a new computer tool hope to improve provider-patient communications as well as self-management of mental health issues in young adults.

Thanks to a grant from the American Nurses Foundation and Midwest Nursing Research Society, Melissa Pinto-Foltz, a postdoctoral scholar and instructor at Case Western Reserve University, is working with a group to develop and construct the e-SMART-MH program to reach young adults already tied to their technology devices.

“Young adults accept technology as part of their lives and are comfortable interacting with it. This project seemed like a natural extension of what they are already doing every day,” Pinto-Foltz said.

While it may be easy for young adults to share the details of their daily lives on social networking mediums such as Facebook, the ability to communicate with health care providers about mental illness is a different story.

“Roughly one in every five young adults between 18 and 25 has a mental illness,” Pinto-Foltz said. “Seventy percent of them don’t receive treatment. Of those that do receive treatment, they have trouble managing the illness and often drop out of treatment early.”

Young adults are a particular concern, says Pinto-Foltz, adding that as young adults gain independence by heading off to college or becoming immersed in new environments, they struggle to manage mental illness.

The e-SMART-MH is a spin-off of a previously developed program called Electronic Self-Management Resource Training to Reduce Health Disparities (e-SMART-HD), which simulates patient-provider dialogues, through a virtual world environment.

A virtual world is like Second Life, where people view a computer-generated 3-D environment on a computer screen. Virtual health care providers, seen as avatars, interact with them in this virtual environment.

Read in Full:  http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/10/02/can-a-virtual-world-help-young-adults-with-mental-health-issues/19084.html



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