By Christos Makridis
Metaverse platform 2B3D announced the first-of-its-kind “Virtual Reality Medical Environment” offering free, live psychiatric services to military veterans through the Metaverse. 2B3D is owned and operated by military veterans. It employs new methods of treatment using technology that has the potential to significantly improve the physical and mental health of veterans via the Internet.
Facts about Veteran Suicide and Mental Health
Bipartisan recognition that urgent action is needed to reduce veteran suicide in America. “Veteran suicide is still too high, but we are making progress…there is still work to be done so that one day we speak of veteran suicide in the past tense,” US Senator Bill Cassidy said Sept. 20 after the last Taliban takeover Over the summer, Cassidy led a bipartisan group of senators campaigning to reach out to veterans who served in Afghanistan to provide mental health resources to address a surge in calls to veteran suicide hotlines to react.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, which has only intensified over the past two years after a spike in mental health deterioration during lockdowns across the states. But suicide rates affect some groups more than others, particularly veterans. “Veterans carry a disproportionate but avoidable burden… Veteran suicide-related deaths are also growing faster than those of the general US population: From 2001 to 2019, the suicide rate among veterans increased by almost 36% compared to a 30% increase in the general population,” said Christopher Jones, acting director of public health services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in testimony before Congress in June.
Suicide can be a particularly difficult problem to prevent, as it is often the result of a number of underlying factors, which can include any combination of mental health and substance abuse, economic and housing insecurity, loneliness and high levels of stress. Post-traumatic stress disorder also increases the risk of attempting suicide. A Veterans Affairs study of 60,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found that 13.5% of deployed and non-deployed vets tested positive for PTSD. It’s hard to say how this figure compares to rates of stress disorder among veterans of previous armed conflicts, since the disorder didn’t get its name until the 1980s. Conditions with the same basic symptoms and risk factors have been dubbed “post-Vietnam syndrome” and cause Up to 25% of Vietnam veterans need intervention and treatment.
Much needed remedies
One of the Department of Veterans Affair’s primary efforts to curb veteran suicide attempts is a crisis hotline, a Suicide Prevention Line. A person does not have to be on welfare to call these numbers, so family members are often encouraged to call on behalf of a loved one who may be having suicidal thoughts or behavior. However, the effectiveness of a phone call to help someone in a life or death situation depends on the competence and availability of the person on the line.
Research by the Veterans Affair Inspector General into the suicide hotline 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 asking to leave before the end of their shift, resulting in calls being diverted to backup centers where the workers are not were adequately trained to help veterans in crisis. Hearing a busy tone worsens suicidal thoughts and other mental health problems in veterans on the receiving line.
Although the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill in 2016 that would require Veterans Affairs to ensure that all phone calls, text messages, and other communications received by the Crisis Hotline are answered in a timely manner by a suitably qualified individual, finding enough qualified individuals remains a challenge . There has been a great deal of staff fluctuation, especially in the last two years, and the quality of care in the facilities has changed.
While the lack of qualified staff is a major obstacle to ensuring that veterans receive assistance, another challenge is the delivery mechanism: care must be available when the veteran needs it, which can be at any time of the day, and therapies must be comfortable be. The support should be integrated into the everyday life of the veterans.
One potential solution is to use chatbots powered by artificial intelligence, as the National Artificial Intelligence Institute at the Department of Veterans Affairs is pioneering technology sprints through its partnerships with industry. Building reliable chatbots is a useful goal for veterans with simple questions, but it may not be a substitute for therapy.
“These are problems that require people to interact with people… the sooner we use technology to create virtual reality environments that mimic the human-to-human aspect of treatment, then we can complement this with proven treatments called artificial intelligence.” or maximize machine learning. Right now, the chariot is ahead of the horse,” said retired Col. Mark Schonberg, 2B3D’s chief of staff.
The upcoming beta launch of 2B3D
The 2B3D Metaverse environment prototype beta for veterans simulates a typical analog medical clinic or center. The person’s avatar enters the facility and is then evaluated by one of the counselors. Depending on this assessment, a person could be referred to group counseling, make a follow-up appointment in the real world, have individual therapy sessions, or in extreme cases, be referred to 911 services. However, the crisis support aspect is only one option within 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. Addiction treatment protocols are initiated prior to or at the same time as 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 the challenges of addiction treatment with a holistic approach of cognitive behavioral therapy and prescribed medication. Select resources from the BioCorRx library of digital cognitive behavioral therapy modules are discoverable and available to visitors to the Phase I environment at any time.
More than half of today’s veterans flock to games to relieve work-related stress because they offer an immersive, exciting, and interactive experience. The non-clinical and autonomous environment also encourages veterans to open up and share in ways they may not want to do within the confines of a hospital facility.
“We’re working to take already-proven symptom-reduction programs for post-traumatic stress disorder and not only duplicate them in virtual reality, but play them to make healing fun…brain by 34% of the brain overall and over 60% in damaged ones.” , underperforming centers,” said Robert Bell, President of 2B3D.
Borrowing from the immersive environments and collaborative, team aspects of games popular with veterans, a virtual reality medical environment can provide support in a way that veterans already enjoy and feel comfortable with at any time of the day, just with a headset and the internet.
Technological improvements such as extended 5G coverage and satellite-based solutions such as Starlink as well as the expansion of artificial intelligence are giving virtual reality additional impetus.
“Today we have a lot more data that we can use to understand and identify suicidal ideation, crises and risk of self-harm – at VA [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 technologies like artificial intelligence will never replace the expertise, intuition and judgment of care teams, but they offer the promise of perspective – an additional safety net that can sift through big datasets and help us learn and flag those who may need help and quickly connect them to the care they need,” said Gil Alterovitz, director of the National AI Institute im Department of Veterans Affairs.
The launch of Metaverse experiences will also come with a wide range of blockchain-based supplemental assets. 2B3D already plans to use non-fungible tokens to ensure seamless identity management across platforms in virtual reality medical environments, so users can avoid the hassle and risk of sharing personal and identifiable information when consenting to sharing for therapies. Whether it’s group therapy or listening to live music, the Metaverse will open up new opportunities for human thriving among veterans and individuals in general.
Ahead of the platform launch, 2B3D will conduct a non-fungible token sale early in Q4, details will be announced on its website and social channels soon. Proceeds will be used to fund further development of its Metaverse environments; Additional funds will support the Forge Forward project.