DUBLIN • When Dr Derek Richards started a small research project to provide an online mental health community for students at Trinity College Dublin, little did he know that it would grow to be part of a platform delivering treatment to more than 60,000 patients.
The research eventually developed into SilverCloud Health, which provides online therapeutic programmes for mental health conditions.
"We enable healthcare organisations to deliver the digital equivalent of face-to-face therapy," says Mr Ken Cahill, CEO and co-founder of SilverCloud. Its programmes are aimed at dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress.
The company was founded in 2012 and since then has gone on to reach over 60,000 patients.
In the UK, SilverCloud's platform is used by the National Health Service, the Ministry of Defence and universities, while in the US, a number of large insurance companies use it.
Clients using the platform have their own home page online through which they access the different modules of the programme.
Keeping people engaged is important, a common issue for any online programme. To do this, it includes interactive elements such as quizzes before moving into psychotherapeutic content.
Using SilverCloud's platform makes it easier for healthcare organisations to reach more people, says Mr Cahill, "reducing the costs and increasing access, that's the key foundation of what we do".
Early intervention is important in mental health, he adds, as it reduces the chances of a patient developing a chronic problem.
Aware, a national charity providing support for people with depression, partnered SilverCloud to conduct a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the programme. More than 600 people signed up for 180 places on the trial.
Dr Claire Hayes, clinical director of Aware, says there have been benefits for its clients who took part in the programme. "A number of my clients have done the programme and I have seen the difference in them as they do it."
Using the platform has also helped Aware to reach a much greater number of people. "There is huge demand for it," Dr Hayes says, adding: "We'd love to be in a position to offer it in an even bigger capacity."