Eventually, the researchers want to adapt the system also on Earth, at primary care physicians’ offices, in a person's home, or in rural areas where clinical help is in short supply or nonexistent. Other possible locations for use include schools, social service offices, places of worship, military bases and prisons.
The depression treatment is part of the Virtual Space Station, a multi-media programme that addresses multiple types of potential psychosocial problems and can be used for training before, and for assistance during, missions. Other problems being addressed via the Virtual Space Station include interpersonal conflict, and stress and anxiety. Currently, astronauts have audio and video access to psychologists only when communication links are available.
The system's multi-media approach for depression includes graphics and video featuring a psychologist who leads the user through a straightforward process called Problem-Solving Treatment. The system provides feedback based upon the information provided when answering a series of questions.
The first step of the process is to make a problem list and select a problem on which to work. The second and third steps are setting goals and brainstorming ways to reach them. The final two steps are assessing the pros and cons of possible solutions and making an action plan to implement them. The programme also helps users plan and schedule enjoyable activities, which people who have depression often stop doing. Additionally, the programme provides preventative and educational information on depression.
Project leader James Cartreine said the system is portable and private. "It can be delivered on a flash drive and run directly from that drive, so that the astronaut has complete control over his or her data," Cartreine said.
An early version of the depression treatment system was beta-tested on research stations in Antarctica, which is used as an analogue to long-duration spaceflights due to its isolation from the rest of the world. Cartreine said feedback from that early test run has been positive, and a clinical evaluation of the latest version on 68 Boston-area volunteers is about to begin.
MEDICA.de; Source: National Space Biomedical Research Institute