By Christos Makridis
Metaverse platform 2B3D has announced the first-of-its-kind “virtual reality medical environment,” which provides free, live mental health services to military veterans via the Metaverse. Owned and operated by military veterans, 2B3D is deploying a new treatment via technology that has the potential to dramatically improve the physical and mental health of veterans over the internet.
Facts About Veteran Suicide and Mental Health
There is bipartisan recognition that urgent responses are needed to reduce veteran suicide in America. “The suicide rate among veterans is still too high, but we are making progress…there is still work to do before we ever talk about veteran suicide in the past tense,” U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy said Sept. 20. this summer, Cassidy led a bipartisan group of senators advocating for outreach to veterans who served in Afghanistan to provide mental health resources in response to a spike in veteran suicide phone calls.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, which has only escalated over the past two years following a sharp decline in mental health during shutdowns in all states. . But the incidence of suicide hits some groups more heavily than others, especially veterans. “Veterans carry a disproportionate but preventable burden… Veteran suicide-related deaths are also increasing at a faster rate than the general U.S. population: From 2001 to 2019, the suicide rate among veterans has increased by almost 36% compared to a 30% increase in the general population,” said Christopher Jones, acting director of the public health service at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention during congressional testimony in June.
Suicide can be a particularly difficult issue to prevent as it is often the result of a combination of underlying factors, which can include any combination of mental health and substance abuse issues, economic and housing insecurity, loneliness and high stress. Post-traumatic stress disorder also increases the risk of attempted suicide. A Veterans Affairs study of 60,000 Iraqi and Afghan veterans found that 13.5% of deployed and non-deployed vets screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is difficult to say how this figure compares to rates of stress disorders among veterans of previous armed conflicts, since the disorder only received its name in 1980. The conditions with the same basic symptoms and the same Risk factors were called “post-Vietnamese syndrome” and caused up to 25% of Vietnam veterans to need interventions and treatments.
One of the main responses of the Department of Veterans Affairs to curb suicide attempts by veterans is to set up a crisis line, namely a suicide prevention hotline. A person does not need to be on benefits to call these lines, so family members are often encouraged to call on behalf of a loved one who may be having suicidal thoughts or behaviors. However, the effectiveness of a phone call in helping someone in a life or death situation depends on the skill and availability of the person on the line.
Research into the Suicide Hotline by the Inspector General of Veterans Affairs found that up to a third of calls made go unanswered. Frontline workers tasked with answering these calls have historically spent little time on the phone or asked to leave before the end of their shifts, resulting in calls being rerouted to relief centers where operators were lacking. sufficient training to deal with veterans in crisis. Hearing a busy signal exacerbates suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues in veterans on the receiving line.
Although the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill in 2016 requiring Veterans Affairs to ensure that all phone calls, text messages and other communications received through the crisis line are responded to in a timely manner. by a suitably qualified person, finding enough of these qualified people remains a challenge. For example, there has been a lot of staff turnover, especially in the last two years, and the quality of care has changed in the institutions.
While the lack of trained personnel is a major barrier to ensuring veterans receive help, another challenge is the delivery mechanism: care must be accessible when the veteran needs it, which can happen at any time. time of day, and therapies should be enjoyable. Support should be integrated into the daily lives of veterans.
One potential solution is the use of AI-powered chatbots, as the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Artificial Intelligence Institute is pioneering through its industry partnerships in technology sprints. Building reliable chatbots is a useful goal for veterans with simple questions, but it can’t replace therapy.
“These are problems that require humans to interact with humans… the sooner we leverage technology to create virtual reality environments that mimic the human-to-human aspect of treatment, then we can augment that with proven treatments that can maximize artificial intelligence or machine learning. Right now the cart is ahead of the horse,” said retired Col. Mark Schonberg, 2B3D chief of staff.
Next beta launch of 2B3D
The prototype of the beta version of the 2B3D metaverse environment for veterans simulates a typical analog clinic or medical center. The person’s avatar enters the facility and is then assessed by one of the counsellors. Based on this assessment, a subject may be referred to group counseling, scheduled for a real-world follow-up appointment, run individual therapy sessions, or, in extreme cases, referred to 911 services. However, the crisis support aspect is only an option in the virtual reality medical environment. The environment can become a place where disadvantaged veterans can spend time together and interact with others experiencing similar challenges.
2B3D’s solution also addresses substance use and addiction. Treatment protocols are initiated for addiction before or simultaneously with virtual reality treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder for best results. During beta testing of the virtual reality medical environment, 2B3D partnered with BioCorRx, which addresses addiction treatment challenges using a holistic approach to cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription medications. Selected resources from BioCorRx’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Digital Module Library will be available to visitors to the Phase I environment and can be viewed at any time.
More than half of today’s veterans flock to games to alleviate service-induced stress because they provide an engaging, suspense-filled, and interactive experience. The non-clinical, self-contained setting also encourages veterans to open up and share in ways they may not want to do within the confines of a hospital setting.
“We are working to take already proven post-traumatic stress disorder symptom reduction programs and not only duplicate them in virtual reality, but also gamify them to make healing fun…the first test patient in our current trials showed improved brain rebalancing results of 34% in the overall brain and more than 60% in damaged, low-functioning centers,” said Robert Bell, President of 2B3D.
By borrowing from the immersive environments and collaborative team aspects of games that are popular with veterans, a virtual reality medical environment can provide support in a way that veterans already enjoy and are comfortable with. any time of the day, with only a headset and the Internet.
Technological improvements, such as the extension of 5G coverage and satellite solutions like Starlink, and the expansion of artificial intelligence are giving virtual reality an added boost.
“Today we have much more data that we can use to understand and identify suicidal ideation, seizures and risk of self-harm – at the AV [Department of Veterans Affairs], for example, we have genomic information from the Million Vet program and transcript data from crisis lines like the VA Veterans Crisis Line… new technology like artificial intelligence will never replace expertise, intuition and judgment teams of care, but it offers the promise of perspective – an additional safety net that can sift through big data and help us learn and flag those who might need it and connect them quickly to the care they need . said Gil Alterovitz, director of the National AI Institute at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The adoption of metaverse experiences will also come with a wide range of complementary blockchain-based assets. 2B3D is already planning to deploy non-fungible tokens to provide seamless identity management across platforms in a virtual reality medical environment so users can avoid the hassle and risk of sharing personal and identifiable information whenever they agree to release it for therapy. From group therapy to listening to live music, the metaverse will open up new possibilities for human flourishing among veterans and individuals in general.
Prior to the launch of its platform, 2B3D will have a non-fungible token sale in early Q4, details will be forthcoming via its website and social media channels. Proceeds will be used to fund further development of its metaverse environments; additional funds will support the Forge Forward project.