With our partners RIO and Hamar municipality this user driven project aims to explore, develop, and evaluate the potential of an VR technology in the recovery process of individuals with mental health and substance use disorders (MHD/SUD). With our multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, mixed-method, and participatory approach, exploring the effectiveness of a welfare technology in the recovery process, we do justice to one of the most vulnerable service user groups: individuals with MHD/SUD, who are often ignored in terms of participation in technological progress. User driven innovation is a fundamental principle of our study. We aim to show how this vulnerable and marginalized target group relates to a virtual reality technology, which will reveal new insights and starting points for prevention and treatment for persons with MHD/SUD. This project will produce new empirical knowledge on the psychological effects produced by a VR experience in the short and long term. A particular feature of our project is that the VRT to be developed is a prototype that can easily be adapted to other target groups, and our ambition is to develop this prototype in a cost-saving manner, which will save the Norwegian health services expenses in the long term. Further, our VRT will probably ease the burden of service providers. The innovative potential of the prototype means that it will also be transferable to other countries. A novel aspect is that service users themselves will be involved, in the study design and the development of the VR prototype. This will enrich the development process and enable researchers to discuss ethical concerns of applying a VRT to persons facing societal challenges. To meet our aims, we will make use of a multi-stakeholder group, combining high expertise of researchers in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, theology, sociology, health economics and audio-visual media with game developers, local government staff and peer support workers.
This collaborative and user driven study aims to deploy virtually reality technology(VRT) to enhance social inclusion among persons with MHD/SUD who belong to one of the most disadvantaged groups. They are marginalized when it comes to education, employment, meaningful activity and social relations. The Norwegian Service User Plan, a register on persons with MHD/SUD, shows that meaningful daily activities are the greatest challenge for these persons. The ability to be included in the society as regular citizens is one of the strongest desires and an indicator of quality of life. According to recent research, lack of social inclusion among persons with MHD/SUD is both intrinsic and structural in nature, but there is no panacea to solve this problem. To a limited degree, VRT has been utilized in treating MHD/SUD, but little is known about the target groups behavior and attitudes towards VRT and how an e-health solution could be beneficial to avoid marginalization. The greatest challenge in our study is the possible lack of interest among the target group and their health care workers to use VRT as a tool to improve social inclusion. We have received support for the study from our two collaboration partners RIO - an user organisation and the municipality of Hamar, that using VRT may be a possible "life turning tool" for persons with MHD/SUD. Further, VRTs are advancing rapidly and we might end up using outdated VRT until we have the results. To mitigate this we put an emphasis on the development of software and less on hardware and believe that the VRT we build will be generic and useful for any type of hardware. The anticipated results will have far reaching implications for the quality of life of persons with MHD/SUD including other marginalized groups. Providing a VRT may have positive effects on the delivery of care to under served groups, and might further have economic implications with more resources are available to expand services to those in greatest need.