Tripartite Partnerships for Mental Health Care

CUHK, AXA Hong Kong and Oxford VR Join Forces to Revolutionise Mental Health Care by Launching Asia-First VR Therapy Solution


Professor Fanny Cheung, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President of CUHK (middle), Gordon Watson, CEO of AXA Asia (right), and Barnaby Perks, CEO of Oxford VR (left) jointly announce the tripartite collaboration on ‘Yes I Can’ project, Asia-first VR therapy solution on mental health.

 

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), AXA Hong Kong and Oxford VR (OVR) have jointly launched a first-of-its-kind advanced psychological therapy using virtual reality (VR) technology to support better mental health outcomes in Asia. This unique collaboration, ‘Yes I Can, aims to offer a ground-breaking new mental health solution for social avoidance.

Social withdrawal is a common symptom of anxiety and depression which can significantly affect functioning at home and at work. In Asia, the high level of stigma surrounding mental wellbeing, resulting from a lack of awareness and education, has prevented people from getting professional help. Enabling widely accessible and cost-effective new solutions has never been more critical.

Yes I Canis a social avoidance treatment programme that has been designed to help people feel safer and more confident in social situations. In the treatment programme, a virtual coach gradually and systematically guides the user through a series of tasks in everyday scenarios such as a Café, Bus, Street, Doctor’s Waiting Room and Convenience Store. The virtual scenarios enable the users to experience the same emotional and physical responses that trigger their anxiety and their desire to avoid social situations as in real-life. As a result of being exposed in virtual reality over time, users can learn to confront and engage in these feared situations safely and overcome their social withdrawal.

Based on its proven success in the UK, the VR therapy can be used to treat most common psychological conditions, including common phobias, anxiety and depression and even more severe conditions such as psychosis and schizophrenia.

In Hong Kong and China, there is a shortage of a trained workforce to cater to the huge unmet psychotherapy need. One million people in Hong Kong and 173 million people in China suffer from common mental health conditions. It takes around three years to see a psychiatrist for six minutes in Hong Kong, with 4.39 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, while in China, the ratio is 2.2 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. Both are significantly lower than the World Health Organization’s recommended ratio of 10 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. A highly trained professional is not required to operate programmes under ‘Yes I Can as the delivery of consistently high-quality treatment is already built-in. The partnership under CUHK, AXA Hong Kong and OVR also includes a clinical research study which involves the recruitment of more than 250 members of the public as participants.

Yes I Can changes the status quo by offering high-quality, innovative and clinically-validated mental health treatment to members of the public in need. Through this tripartite collaboration, the aim is to make quality mental health care more accessible in Asia, with Hong Kong as a pioneer in breaking new ground.

 

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Department of Psychology 
Yes I Can Programme

 

(June 2019)