South Korea’s ICT ministry said on Thursday the country plans to invest nearly $26.2 million over the next three years to research digital treatment for depression in a move to find new ways to help the growing number of people suffering from the mental disorder.
The number of depression patients in South Korea reached 790,000 in 2019, up 5.9 percent on-year, and the number is expected to rise as the pandemic restricts social activities and triggers economic uncertainty.
Digital treatment methods, such as games and virtual reality (VR) software, have recently drawn attention as a possible alternative to treat and prevent mental health disorders without direct physical care.
The Ministry of Science and ICT said it has earmarked 14 billion won until 2024 for the research programme, while the private sector will invest 14.9 billion won, reports Yonhap news agency.
The research aims to develop a digital service that offers personalised depression diagnoses based on real-time collection and analysis of user data, as well as a service that provides preventative measures against the disease by using smartphones and other mobile devices.
Experts across various fields, from artificial intelligence to mental health, will take part in the research, including Kim Hyung-sook, a cognitive science professor at Hanyang University.
Naver Cloud, the cloud arm of South Korea’s internet giant Naver Corp., will also participate in the program to build a cloud infrastructure for the digital platforms.