When we think of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) we think of the internal turmoil and stress that war inflicts on our brave women and men in the military, but as we’ll learn from our conversation with Silvia Garcia Codony, CEO and co-founder of Mira Therapeutics, its effects are far more broad than that.
The National Center for PTSD states that some 8 million adults have PTSD in any given year in America, with 8 out of every 100 people having it at some point in their lives. In this week’s Healthcare and Language Access conversation we learn how mobile technologies are supporting those in need of mental health support outside of the on-site therapy or counseling session.
The pandemic in America has brought trauma to new heights across the population. The sudden death of people close to you, watching those around us struggling to recover from COVID, and the loss of homes, stability, and basic socializing has touched us all with the definition of trauma in some way, which is a fear for your life.
Let’s dive in to an eye-opening conversation on this underlooked and misunderstood subsection of mental health.
Life Sciences Becomes Science for Life
So how did Silvia find her way in to remedying this unique mental health condition? With over 20 years in Life Sciences, specifically the medical device industry and the pharma industry, Silvia began to see gaps in care delivery systems for psychological trauma. Her work in clinical trials and more generalist types of health work could not hold her attention as she soon found increasing motivation in doing something more impactful for people’s internal health and well-being.
The connections between the on-going maintenance required to keep ourselves happy and healthy and the way digital technology can aide that became crystal clear to her. She states that digital technology lends itself especially well to mental health because “we cannot solve it with one pill. We cannot solve it with one intervention. We need a little more than that.”
So what is PTSD and how do traumatic experiences affect us? Silvia claims trauma is a moment when you have a “fear for your life or for someone else’s”. It’s not just a matter of feeling bad.
“It has to be intense. You really have to have the feeling of fear that triggers all the things in your body for survival.” Intense flashbacks, obtrusive memories and feelings of loss of control all encapsulate this sense of turmoil. “You cannot control it, your body acts like you’re in danger!”.
Silvia states that 70 percent of us experience traumatic events in a lifetime with some 20 percent of the population have persistent symptoms that could lead to PTSD. It’s not is not just for war veterans: according to Silvia, “It could not be further from that.” “sexual assault, violence … an accident, a natural disaster, childhood abuse . . . and even witnessing.”
What does “witnessing” mean in this context? Social media moderators who have to look through disturbing content and have witnessed gruesome imagery and stressful situations can be affected. Additionally, while not always being considered PTSD, Silvia notes that microaggressions due to racism and social unrest, bullying, racial discrimination can produce trauma symptoms whether PTSD or not. Also, people who are asylum seekers have a higher rate of trauma than others due to their exposure to traumatic and dangerous situations in this country.
What Motivated Silvia?
Often, according to Silvia, people try to cope with their trauma and PTSD by self-harm or substance abuse. With the burden of an unmitigated traumatic experience pressing down on you, it’s nearly impossible to get your mind off of that thought.
That’s where Mira comes in. The idea for Mira’s app was inspired by friends of the co-founders who were experiencing trauma symptoms. So they asked, “What can we do to help?”. Realizing how common this shared experience was they decided to develop a mobile tool. It’s very surprising when you start talking to people how many actually have had experience with that or had experience with that.”
What Does the Mira App Do and Why?
We asked Silvia where on-site mental health therapy has fallen short in treating PTSD. With the pandemic increasing national feelings of distress and gloom, losing access to many of these locations due to pandemic restrictions could not have come at a worse time. Managing PTSD specifically is an ongoing process that must go beyond these locations. According to Silvia, “the good news is, there are treatments that work. . . But what therapy cannot do, is be with you all the time. . time . . . and it will happen at times when you are not at the office”.
The Mira Therapeutics app is designed to help PTSD victims manage at those times outside of the office or therapy session. Additionally, Mira is covering a gap in information. Traditionally, when you visit your therapist, they will need a recap of your symptoms, their frequency and intensity, and the context. We know it is hard to remember these specific instances, especially if you were experiencing stress at the time. Mira helps collect the experience to help the therapist, but also primarily the sufferer. More importantly, it helps pull you out of the symptom. It get’s your mind away from the thoughts.
Generally, patients with PTSD will meet with their therapist at intervals, maybe once or twice a week. While this is helpful in the long run, the course of treatment can’t help the patient in the moment of a flashback during their everyday life – but in regular life, Mira helps to refocus and pull you out of a flashback if you are in a controlled setting.
How is the field changing in treating PTSD?
“We are changing part of this by introducing more self-care and self-management, because we think that is a key gap in between the sessions. Whether you do it while you are or are not in treatment, and that’s a component that is missing, so we see that coming more and more. We not only see it in our field but in general for health care.”
Using information and data to provide, personalized, optimized treatment by giving it to person suffering and their therapist and across the board for mental & medical health care is the next evolution of this system.
“We expect to be the ones who make it happen in this particular field, and even expand it to other mental health conditions… We are also hoping to take further [away] the stigma of talking about these issues and mental health in general because we have been focusing a lot on medical health and the next big pandemic is probably mental health”.
Tune in below!