One of the key selling points of the metaverse is that it allows us to interact in new ways. We can meet publicly or privately, immersing ourselves in an environment we find comfortable whenever we want or need.
Because of this, it’s easy to see why the metaverse is being considered as a solution for treating mental illnesses. Where limited resources or access can prove a huge barrier to effective treatment, it can now take place at the user’s convenience.
In the latest event in Hays’ Tech Founders series, I was joined by Mark Schonberg, the Chief Strategy Officer for 2B3D. Based in the US, 2B3D are focused on crisis support, preventing army veteran suicide through modern technologies such as the metaverse and NFTs.
2B3D’s story began when their founder, Robert Bell, noticed a difference in behaviour of a friend who’d returned from service. Mark himself served in the US Army for 34 years and, having left, was approached by 2B3D to advise on the work they were doing. Hearing about their project made him think about the mental health struggles of people he’d worked with, and how it might be affecting their families too. As he told me, “the fact that 2B3D were starting off by focusing on people was a really powerful message to me.”
Statistics show that up to 20% of people who served in the US Army have PTSD in a single year. Meanwhile, British soldiers who served in recent wars are twice as likely to report symptoms as somebody who did not, while almost 20% of military personnel revealed other mental disorders too.
Why is the metaverse the way forward? Mark points out that putting on the VR headset changes the user’s environment instantaneously, removing them from the place where they feel low and could do irreversible damage.
He also gives the example of how the metaverse enables remote group therapy with a number of benefits. In fact, Mark has worked on such clinics in the virtual realm (including one on a space station). For the patients, it allows them to interact with people in a similar situation but with the option of anonymity. The therapists running the sessions can make better use of their limited resources, and have the power to only admit authorised attendees.
How can the authenticity of these identities be managed? NFTs. As Mark explains, “People say ‘NFTs?! Those are those crazy online graphic artforms that people buy!’ – No, we’re looking at the supply chain and the security aspect of NFTs of identity management”.
Through NFTs, Mark continues, people will be able to gain access to prescriptions, referrals for therapy and track any progress.
The application doesn’t stop with veterans, either. “We’re starting with veterans, but because of the metaverse, we can quickly change the wallpaper. It could be a teen centre, an LGBT trauma centre, or somewhere for two kids in Ukraine who are displaced”.
I’m really excited by the possibilities that this holds. The work that Mark and 2B3D are doing is truly valuable and will save lives. As he shared during our conversation, I hope he’s able to reach as many people as possible and provide them with the resources they can use in their moment of need.
I’m also grateful to have been able to hear Mark speak so candidly about a cause close to his heart. As he said, people are talking about mental health more openly than ever before and we’re all benefitting from that. It was a fascinating conversation and a wonderful way to end our Tech Founders series for 2022. Click here to watch the event back in full on LinkedIn.
I look forward to meeting more innovative entrepreneurs working to make the world a better place in 2023. See you then!
Director, Hays National Technology - UK&I
Harry Gooding is part of Hays Technology, working across our Enterprise Technology Practice and supporting new initiatives around skills development. After beginning his career in recruitment, he then worked in VC backed start-ups and scale-ups for six years across two different portfolios before joining Hays.