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New Poll Finds the Public Perceives Psychiatry as Innovative, But Show Caution on Using New Treatments

  • August 18, 2023
  • Patients and Families, Public awareness, Technology, Treatment

In recent years, the field of psychiatry has seen many new developments and innovations in diagnosis and treatment, and that is reflected in public perception. The latest APA Healthy Minds Poll, a national public opinion poll, finds that almost three-fourths of Americans agree with the statement: “Psychiatry is an innovative field, and new diagnostic tools and treatments are being developed that will help people’s mental health.”

Recent innovations

Among recent innovations are psychedelic-assisted treatments, including augmentation with ketamine and MDMA, which hold promise in addressing treatment-resistant PTSD. Augmented intelligence (AI) is being used or explored for a wide variety of clinical uses, including automating elements of billing and prior authorization, detecting potential medical errors or systemic quality issues, automating diagnosis based on data in medical records, and delivering cognitive behavioral therapy. APA has developed an overview and guidance for clinicians which highlights some potential cautions and concerns such as the potential for false information and bias and protecting patient privacy. Virtual reality and augmented reality are increasingly being used in treatment, creating realistic environments and simulating real-world scenarios as part of therapy.

Public opinions about using innovative treatments

While most people view psychiatry as innovative, fewer people are familiar with specific new treatments and diagnostic tools, and opinions on considering the use of new innovations vary significantly among different age groups. For example, adults are split on whether they are comfortable (39%) or uncomfortable (41%) with the use of augmented intelligence in mental health care. Adults aged 18-44 are twice as likely as those ages 65+ to say they are comfortable with the use of augmented intelligence in mental health care. Half of parents (54%) say they are comfortable with it, including one-fifth who say they are very comfortable (21%). Men are also significantly more likely to be comfortable with AI in mental health than women. .

A similar pattern emerged when respondents were asked about whether they would try various other innovative mental health treatments if they were recommended by a medical professional. Nearly half (49%) of adults 18-34 said they would consider the use of psychedelic drugs as a treatment for mental illness, compared to only 29% of adults aged 45 to 65.

About half of all adults said they would consider

  • Brain imaging to determine how different disorders impact brain activity.
  • Genetic testing to predict side effects or effectiveness of mental health treatments.

More than four in ten adults said they would consider

  • Virtual reality and augmented reality therapies for treating mental disorders.
  • The use of biomarkers to predict the development of certain mental health conditions.
  • The use of biomarkers to predict the effectiveness or side effects of treatments.

And about one in three adults said they would consider

  • Psychedelic drugs as a treatment for mental illness.
  • Ketamine as approved to treat mental disorders.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation to help people with severe depression.
  • Chatbots to provide certain types of talk therapy.
  • Deep brain stimulation to treat severe and chronic psychiatric conditions.

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