Friday, August 18, 2023
Season 2, Episode 16:
Mental Health in the
In this episode, we are talking with Terrance Williams about how the metaverse can be a tool in improving our mental health.
Season 2, Episode 16: Mental Health in the Metaverse
Welcome to the Public Health Joy podcast, the safe space for real and honest conversation about what building a public health research career is really like: the challenges, the triumphs, and all the lessons we learn along the way.
I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a Public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In today’s episode, we are talking with Terrance Williams about how the metaverse can be a tool in improving our mental health.
This is where research meets relationship and together, we will find our Public Health Joy!
We have made huge strides in how we treat mental health over the course of the past century, from the development of targeted pharmaceuticals to establishing newer and more effective methods of therapy. Yet, the possibilities of utilizing emergent technologies in treating mental health have largely been left unexplored until now. Joining us to discuss the role of virtual reality (VR) in mental health is Terrance Williams, Founder of Meta Wellness, a company that is harnessing the power of VR to help mental health professionals treat patients struggling with a range of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe eating disorders. Terrance is also an active men’s mental health advocate and public speaker on the state of men’s mental health, depression, and relationships. In today’s conversation, we sit down with Terrance to talk about how he founded Meta Wellness, the promising potential of VR in the mental health space, and his expectations for these technologies going forward. We also break down the differences between VR and other emergent technologies like AI before examining how these technologies can help foster collaboration and community in the mental health space. To hear the latest on emergent technologies and their impact on the future of mental health care, be sure to tune in today!
To connect with Terrance:
Links mentioned in this episode:
For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit https://joyeewashington.com
- Terrance’s cutting-edge work at the intersection of VR, mental health, and wellness. [00:53]
- Differences between the metaverse, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. [07:20]
- Understanding the drawbacks of VR, AI, and the metaverse. [10:57]
- Why the implications of AI are much more dangerous than VR. [13:04]
- Technology’s role in fostering collaboration and community in the mental health space. [18:04]
- How companies are addressing accessibility and affordability when it comes to VR. [19:46]
- The viability of VR as an alternative form of treatment in the mental health space. [22:12]
- How emerging technology in the mental health space will evolve in the coming years. [26:24]
- Troubling statistics around men’s mental health and Terrance’s hopes to make a positive impact through his work. [31:35]
- How to get in touch with Terrance and learn more about Meta Wellness. [33:26]
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[0:00:49] JW: Welcome to another great episode of The Public Health Joy podcast. Today, we have Terrance Williams, who is the founder and CEO of Meta Wellness, which is a company that builds Virtual Reality simulations for mental health professionals. Now, I’m going to tell you, Terrance hit me up on LinkedIn like, “Hey, I really want to be on this podcast. I’m going to want to see what’s happening.” So, Terrance, we have welcomed you into the space. Go ahead and tell us what you got going on. Tell us about Metal Wellness and who you are.
[0:01:27] TW: Yes, absolutely. I saw what you’re doing, and I blew up your inbox. I was like, “I will definitely love to come on and talk.” So I definitely appreciate you having me. Yes, as you were saying, I’m the CEO of Meta Wellness, we build virtual reality simulations for mental health professionals, even nonprofits, life coaches, and right now, we’re even working with like outreaching communities, and different things like that. We’re actually even working with universities on their outreach programs too. But yes, we build these virtual reality simulations, and we first started off doing – the simulations that we built were for more like telehealth, telemental sessions. So, therapists could actually sit with their clients and they can sit one on one and actually have their session with each other in virtual reality.
We started building offices in virtual reality, and then some therapists were like, “Oh. Well, can you put us on the mountains? Can you put us on the beach?” Things of that nature. So we started doing that, and branching off, and then some other people were saying, “Hey, can you do group therapy type stuff?” I was like, “Absolutely.” So we started building spaces for group therapy sessions. You all can think of Alcohol Anonymous, things of that nature, those types of things where people can come in a safe place, and actually speak, and you don’t actually have to get in your car and come to these places, you can just put on the headsets, and you’re right there. You’re right there. Whatever aspect you’re thinking about like a beach, or you look like you’re in your backyard, all different types of stuff. Then we even started branching off into exposure therapy, which is one of the biggest uses for VR.
I have clients that deal with schizophrenia, claustrophobia, and we started building simulations to help them conquer their fears on that, and even people with PTSD. From there, we’ve just been expanding. Right now, we’re doing some stuff with universities where we’re creating VR simulations for students at the university. One of the things we’re doing, we’ve actually recreated the entire campus and virtual reality, so students can have a virtual walkthrough of the campus. We’ve also been in community centers, so the students can actually come to a safe place, have a karaoke night, open mic, all different, really cool, fun stuff. We just finished expanding and growing from there, and it’s been an amazing ride.
[0:03:21] JW: Yes. This is the thing that I want to share, and I want to ask you, how did you even get into this space? Because from what I understand, disclaimer, everybody. Terrance is not a public health professional; Terrance is not a mental health professional. Don’t come ask him for no advice. Don’t come ask him for a whole bunch of help and services. Explain to us how did you even get into this space from what your background is?
[0:03:54] TW: Yes, my background is actually in marketing and business. That’s where I got my degrees in, but I’ve always been a really big tech guy. I’ve always thought technology was the future. Thought AI, VR, all this stuff was coming, crypto, NFTs. I was that guy. I was always a true believer. One day, my friend was talking about different ways you can actually build virtual reality simulations. What I did was, I was like, “Yes, this is really cool.” He showed me, I got goosebumps. I was like, “This is amazing.” I looked up, and I was walking right beside this humongous elephant that looked like I was really beside this elephant. I was like, “How do I build these types of things.” He kind of showed me the way, he kind of taught me some of the basics.
But then, what I did was I really just honed in and just really took a year, and just really dove into actually learning how to code, and build these simulations, and these platforms for certain things. It was very challenging, because my whole life, I sucked at math. The third grade, I was supposed to be held back. Luckily, I wasn’t held back from math, but even all the way through getting my master’s, I had to look on a couple of people’s papers to get passed on my finance and accounting classes. But you know, I really, really wanted it. What I did was I incorporated the rule of 100. The rule of 100 is, if you spend 18 minutes a day, for one year, and it equals 100 minutes. Then if you have to do that in a year, you’ll be better than a lot of people just in the population, whatever that discipline is. That’s what I did. I spent 18 minutes a day for an entire year. Well, actually, it was really more. I spent an hour or two a day really just honing in and learning over and over. Failing, learning, learning, learning. So I got really, really good at it. And then people just started hitting me up, asking me about different things that they could build.
When I first started off, I was building homes, I was building clubs, all these different types of things in the metaverse, in virtual reality. Then one day, somebody was just asking me, “Hey. Can you do anything in mental health?” It was this lady, she sent me this email, and then the email, it said, “Help me. Help save my son.” I was kind of taken aback. When I spoke to her, her son was suffering from anorexia, and he can’t eat. Like every time he picks up food and put it in his mouth, he just starts getting really, really sick. What I did was I recreated their entire kitchen in virtual reality. I recreated a whopper in there. So when he picks up the whopper in virtual reality, he brings it to his mouth. And as he bites down on it, it starts disappearing. It was a great way for him to start being able to get used to food again. Then maybe, a couple of months after that, she hit me back and she was like, “My son is able to eat food again. This was great. I appreciate it.”
I was like, “Wow. This was like a big thing.” Then she started recommending me to other people, and people started reaching out to me. It was really diving into just more mental health stuff, so I said, “Okay. While these people are interested in mental health, let me just go ahead and just focus in on that”, so that’s how I got here.
[0:06:36] JW: Telling that story really speaks to how public health, mental health, and technology are so interconnected, is so interdisciplinary. We have to start learning how to make all these different connections because technology is emerging, is growing so quickly. Just to kind of level set a little bit, can you explain? Now, we’ve been talking about the metaverse, we’ve been talking about virtual reality, we’ve been talking about AI, which is artificial intelligence. What’s the difference between all those things? When you hear those things all the time and it’s almost like they’re used interchangeably. But I know that there are some differences between them. Can you explain kind of, and for others who may not know the differences?
[0:07:20] TW: Virtual reality is, I know everybody’s like seeing kind of those commercials where people had those goggles, and people are like running into walls, they’re boxing, and stuff. So you’re put into a virtual simulation that’s supposed to look like, or even at least less similar to the actual world where you can interact and do things as if you were in real life. That is what VR is, it’s virtual reality. But in VR, you can go into the metaverse to where if you’re boxing with somebody and you’re boxing with another person, let’s say he’s in China, he has a headset. You’re both in that simulation together. That’s technically you’re both in the metaverse already. That is in the metaverse simulation. That’s what it kind of means. If you’re in the metaverse and VR, that’s what it is. You’re in a place, in a virtual reality simulation where there’s multiple people interacting. Because I’ve been in VR simulations where it was at the club, and people are actually there partying with each other, et cetera. Concerts, like I saw [inaudible 0:08:10]. It was really, really cool. So that’s what VR is.
AI is like the supercomputer, right? I don’t know if anybody’s seen like iRobot, but the villain of iRobot wasn’t really Sunny the robot, it was actually the mega computer. So the mega computer was the big deal, and that’s what kind of AI is. It’s a supercomputer that can you can really – it can do a lot of different things for you. But you can put those supercomputers in robots to make them interact and move, et cetera. VR is putting on the goggles, being in a simulation that actually represents something in real life, or a video game, et cetera. Instead of boxing somebody in real life, you can go in a virtual reality simulation and actually box them in there. And you’re not actually going to get beat up because you’re in a video game simulation.
AI is like a supercomputer. We’re talking about iRobot, things of that nature. So if you could ask any question that can kind of do it for you, but it can also do different things for you as well. So it can get into a robot, and tell the robot to cook and clean for you. What gives the robot the ability to do it and know how to do it is AI. It’s given it the information, the ability to do it. You can also ask any question, and we’ll be able to divvy up and ask certain questions. But it’s not really on the basis of just basic questions. I think a lot of people think it’s just like simple stuff. So it’s pretty cool because it’s actually kind of scary as well too. Because even in the mental health space, they’re already talking about how they’re going to be able to use AI to really diagnose certain mental health conditions that people have at the drop of the dime. Not only diagnose it, fix it.
There are a lot of people predicting that in the next 30, 40 years, there’s not going to be even the need for therapists because the AI simulations are going to be able to diagnose what you have. If you have Bipolar, they’re going to be able to diagnose that and be able to fix it for you within the span of a second. It’s going to get really, really interesting in the few years to come.
[0:09:53] JW: Yes. You brought up a lot of points that now I got to remember all these different points. Number one, even though as a researcher and as a professor, I got to put this out here. Even though it can write your papers, don’t – okay. Y’all, don’t do that. You’ve got to use some critical thinking because then you’re going to get in trouble for plagiarism. But it can be very useful in helping you create outlines, and helping you think out the process of your writing, and your research, and things like that. A big part of the AI space, and VR, and the metaverse, and all of that is making sure that you know how to use it ethically, and responsibly. I think that’s an important thing. Then the other thing that I wanted to bring up was, you talked about iRobot, right? Which I saw on TV the other day. I had never really seen iRobot. I had heard of it, but I hadn’t ever really seen it. So I was watching it, and I was like, “Oh, this is where we’re headed.” I don’t know, like I’m a millennial, and I grew up on Disney Channel.
[0:10:57] TW: You’re not a real millennial, though, because millennials are really into tech. You’re not –
[0:11:07] JW: I’m a millennial by age. I’m 80 years old in spirit, okay. I was watching when I was younger, on Disney Channel, they had this movie called Smart House.
[0:11:20] TW: Oh, yes. I remember that.
[0:11:21] JW: Anybody remember Smart House, but Smart House is the reason why I don’t have Alexa. It’s the reason why I don’t have Echo. It’s the reason why I don’t use Siri. I don’t use none of this stuff, because my house scares me. Because the whole house took over, right, as well. I was even reading this morning about how artificial intelligence – is it getting out of control? Is it taking over? In a couple of years, is it going to do major damage that we won’t be able to control? I mean, with anything, there are advantages, and there are disadvantages, right? So yes, it may be able to help in the mental health space, as far as treating, and diagnosing, and those types of things. But in your experience, what have been the challenges or the downsides and the negative sides of what we see in the metaverse, virtual reality, and AI? You even mentioned one of them, which is folks losing their jobs, right?
[0:12:24] TW: Yes, it’s interesting. On the VR side, there hasn’t been anything super crazy. However, on Facebook, when Facebook first opened up their VR community called Horizon Worlds. Again, you can be in there. Your digital person, your digital avatars in these simulations representing you. You have the headset on, but people see your digital avatar. There was a lady who sued Facebook because a bunch of guys kind of like – she said, they were doing some inappropriate things, or saying inappropriate things to her, and they were all like surrounding her, and doing all these types of gestures. She sued them for sexual harassment. That was interesting.
But AI is 10 times way more dangerous than VR. One of the big reasons is because, if you tell AI to do something, it’s going to do it, it doesn’t matter what it has to do to get through it, it will do it. So for example, if you tell AI, “Hey, build this house.” It will build the house, but it doesn’t care if it’s killing the animals in the way. The ants that live there, the people in their house already that has [inaudible 0:13:27] it. It’s going to just do what it was told to do. It’s also scary, too, because somebody asked AI to find the most dangerous weapon on Earth. It found the weapon; it was a Russian nuclear bomb. But what happened was something they didn’t expect, and that was that the AI went a step further. It actually just – not only trying to find, it found a dangerous weapon, but it actually went a step further and tried to actually find a way to actually detonate the weapon on us, which is really crazy, right?
What happened was, it didn’t have the programming to actually do it itself. What it did was, it tried to reach out and recruit other AI bots to try to get them to do it, but they found it, and stopped it. I think that would have worked or the other AIs would have been able to do it. But the fact that it was told just to do one thing, but it took a step further, and tried to go a step further, and actually try to do other things with it is pretty scary. The biggest thing about AI that makes it scary is, it only takes one mistake to really be something catastrophic for it to happen, right? There’s little things that are going on. I think the National Disorder Prevention, they took down their app, because the AI bot was telling people bad advice when it came to losing weight. The person asked, how do I lose weight if I have an eating disorder. The AI told the person, basically, just take in less calories.
They complain about that, because eating disorders, there’s a whole bunch of them that has nothing to do. Some of them don’t have anything to do with just taking in less calories. But that’s the kind of thing as well, like some people are complaining that it doesn’t do exactly what they wanted to do. But you have to be really specific to the simulation as well, exactly what you wanted to do. We’re just still in the beginning stages of it. Ten years from now, what is it going to do? Because we already have some McDonald’s that are fully operated by AI and robots already. One at a time.
[0:15:09] JW: Yes. I’m just thinking about in those interactions between humans, and AI, VR, metaverse, all the emerging technology, right? Because like you said, we’re in the beginning stages of it. This is only going to grow, and it kind of reminds me of, back in the early ’90s, or whatever, when the internet was starting to come up, and people were kind of having some of those same things. Like, “Oh, this is not good, or what it’s going to be, what it’s going to look like.” Now, we can barely function –
[0:15:43] TW: Without the Internet, yes.
[0:15:44] JW: – without the Internet. But in those interactions between humans, and how we use technology. We have to consistently be aware that as humans, we have critical thinking, we have the conscience, the moral, and the ethical responsibilities to consider and think about in how we use this technology. Because like you said, AI is going to do what you tell it to do, and it’s not going to follow whatever the chain, the coding, whatever is going to say, or do, or tell. So we have to start thinking about where do we come into play in this as humans. Go ahead.
[0:16:30] TW: It’s even crazier what people think. VR is very, very controllable. You just build the stuff, and you just let it go. AI is a completely different animal. I’m pretty sure, are you familiar with The Sims.
[0:16:43] JW: I’ve never played Sims, but I know about Sims, yes. I have friends who play Sims, yes.
[0:16:49] TW: So right now, they’re trying to add consciousness to the Sims characters, which will be operated by AI. The characters in there will have AI consciousness, so they’re going to wake up and say, “How did I get here? Where did I come from? What is this?” They’re going to be like, “How did this place even start? What’s the big bang?” Well, the Big Bang is when you actually turn the video game on. It’s going to be really, really interesting how that’s going to be playing out because they’re also believing that even the AI consciousness they’re going to be adding to the Sims, they’re going to be able to create their own simulations within The Sims. So it’s going to be layers on layers of just different realities that are going to be able to form.
It kind of brings back the question, if you really just think about it like, well, dang, are we even in the simulation if it’s like that type of thing too? We’ll be able to add consciousness to video game characters, and it’s going to be extremely, extremely interesting.
[0:17:38] JW: Yes. Yes. In thinking about how we foster community and collaboration, because public health research, and mental health, all of that is about building relationship, and building connections with people. When we’re talking about the metaverse and VR, how does that work in fostering collaboration and community, especially in the mental health space? What does that look like?
[0:18:05] TW: Well, the benefit of it, especially on the VR side, is the community outreach that you can put people isn’t just going to be really just dependent on your location anymore. I can be in China, you can be in Australia, and we can still be in the same community together using VR. The expansion is going to be kind of like how we’re seeing with social media, where you can meet somebody that’s in Tanzania, or Lithuania, and actually build a connection, and a relationship with those people. It’s going to be the same thing, but you’re going to actually be in that community, and actually see these people.
The expansion of that is going to be really interesting. Also, the technology is going to grow too, because if you are in China, and you speak Chinese, and I am an American, I speak English. Even just having the headsets on. When I hear you speak – when you’re speaking Chinese, it’s going to be interpreted. I’m going to actually hear it in English. There’s going to be a language barrier, and that’s going to be broken as well. Because you don’t have to necessarily learn a whole new language just to connect with these people in all different areas. You’d be able to just do it right here at your home, you know.
[0:19:02] JW: Yes. I can see where that would be a benefit, right? Because you’re building community in a totally different way, in a totally different space, in an innovative way. Also, you mentioned breaking down one type of barrier, which is the language barrier, right? But there’s also a lot of stigma surrounding mental health. When we’re talking about stigma, and other types of barriers to mental health, including accessibility, or affordability, technology is expensive. How is getting mental health treatment in the metaverse, how affordable is that? Especially for people who are seeking that type of treatment? How accessible is it for folks?
[0:19:46] TW: Yes. That’s a great question because you can get a headset for about 150 bucks if you wanted to refurbish, if you wanted to go really all out. You can do it for like 500 bucks. We also partnered with a couple of companies, with a company called Grover. Rented out for seven bucks a month, but you’re absolutely right. One of the biggest things is that the technology isn’t ubiquitous. It’s not in everybody’s home, like a laptop, or a cell phone. One of the things Facebook did was because their Oculus, their headsets, they were going around for 299. But a lot of people weren’t buying it, because it’s a new technology, and it just cost too much. So they’ve been lowering the price on that, Apple is getting ready to come out their headsets, and Apple doesn’t make anything cheap. That’s going to be like probably two grand. I think the biggest issue is how do you make it affordable for people, and I think you just have to lower the cost. I think that will be a big deal.
Once they lower the cost, and then people get it, then they can probably raise the price on it again, but you need to put in everybody’s hand. Right now, it’s not in everybody’s hands yet. That’s why a lot of people just don’t know about it that much yet. Because you go on anybody’s house, you’ll see a laptop or a cell phone. But it’s very rare if you actually see them with some VR headsets, and then the use of it as well, too, right? Because with VR, a lot of people use it for video game type of simulations, right? I’m a big Call of Duty fan, and you can actually play Call of Duty-type games in the metaverse already in VR, and actually feel like you’re actually out there in the battlefield. People are actually using it more for that.
I took a different approach in saying, “Hey, we can use this professionally in a whole different sense.” But making it affordable is going to be a barrier that they’re going through right now. But there are ways to get, but I’ve worked with a lot of people that have private practices are like, “Hey, we got like 30, 50 clients. How do we do it?”
I tell them like, “Hey, right now, the best way is to go to Grover, you can get a headset for $7 a month and try it that way.” Then they kind of incorporate that into the cost of what they’re actually doing with the VR. Some people are being very creative with it. I think in the future, it’ll be a lot more affordable for everybody, and you’ll see a lot more people having it for sure.
[0:21:41] JW: Yes, and thinking about mental health professionals and their work. How can they integrate the metaverse or virtual reality into their practice, and into the things that they do and keep it sustainable? Is metaverse and virtual reality in mental health treatment, and diagnosis, and helping people to seek the assistance that they need. How sustainable is this?
[0:22:12] TW: Right? That’s a great question. They’ve been actually doing a lot of different studies with VR, and we’ve been finding a lot of different ways that it’s actually been helpful. I tell people, right now, we’re not trying to take away Zoom. It’s just an alternative to be able to do what you want to do. A lot of times, I think back to this one man, his name is Jimmy [inaudible 0:22:30]. He was serving his first five months in Iraq. One day, he actually had to switch places with his bunkmate and his bunkmate went out and he was supposed to be looking for like a new TV for them to watch football. As he switched places with them, he’s standing guard, he actually sees a bomb hit the vehicle, as it was leaving, and he rushes over. When he gets there, he sees his bunkmate paralyzed, but he also sees somebody, one of his other comrades dead in the same seat he was supposed to be sitting in that night. He saw two of his other comrades severely injured, and he was going through it with PTSD. He ended up having to leave and et cetera, waking up, night sweats, confusion, anger, fear, all these types of things. When he went to a bathroom stall, he had to check every stall, all these different types of stuff.
He ended up getting reached out to his mentor, they were doing a study, and they took 10 different people all with different types of PTSD. Because people understand like, one out of three people that have a traumatic event will have PTSD. It’s not always what had to do with like war. So it can be a car accident, it can be a mugging, it can be a violent act, all those types of stuff. So they took them, with his situation, they put him into a room with VR headsets, and they gave him a prop M16 gun. He opened his eyes, he heard a helicopter go by. He’s seeing artillery shells hit the floor, he’s seeing soldiers run from a distance, he’s seen gunfire bombs, all these amazing things going off. He’s just like, “Whoa.” It really brought him right back to Iraq.” Take the headsets off. He’s like, “This is crazy.” But the cool thing is, he did the same treatments over six weeks, and he was actually cured from his PTSD, and he doesn’t remember the last time he had a dream of Iraq.
The thing that made Jimmy’s story so interesting is, he tried therapy, he tried medicine, and it just didn’t work. The VR did work. We’re not going to say that VR is always going to be better than therapy or medicine, we’re not saying that. But I think the best hospitals, the best professionals, they have multiple ways to treat you. If you only have one way to treat somebody and that way doesn’t work, then you’re out of luck, right? The more ways you’re able to divide and conquer is going to make things a lot easier. There’s just so many different other things too. With VR, we’re seeing success rates up to 60%, 70% where people with phobias, traumas, et cetera. They’ve actually even done studies when it comes to pain relief. They took burn victims. It was a study in behavioral medicine, I believe. They took burn victims and they put them in a snowy world where there was a snowman, they can have snowball fights, all these really amazing things. They found that their pain was reduced by 35% to like 50% within three to four weeks.
We’re seeing it interact and do a whole bunch of things. But most of the time, when people are actually using VR to handle especially on the exposure therapy side, they’re seeing really, really high success rates even higher up to like 90%, generally with some types of phobias, like claustrophobia, schizophrenia, all that type of stuff.
[0:25:18] JW: The research is out there. Number one, there is research out there. But also, there’s going to be a whole lot more research coming on how this metaverse VR, AI emergent technology is going to impact the public health and mental health space. I think it’s really important to not only hear the numbers, but to hear the stories, live experiences of people who have used this technology, and it has been helpful for them. Well, in your experience, and being in this space, and with Meta Wellness, the field of mental health and public health as well is constantly evolving, right? Just as technology is constantly evolving. How do you see these virtual reality simulations, and the use of the metaverse, how do you see it evolving? What does the future look like? What can we expect in how to support professionals and mental health, as well as those clients in mental health? And what does that look like for improving public health outcomes as well?
[0:26:24] TW: Yes. I think the biggest thing is that, it’s going to be so amazing how technology is going to grow in the next 10 years. I don’t know. This may be a tad bit off-topic, but Elon Musk just got his Neuralink FDA-approved. That’s basically going to be a chip that are going to be putting in people’s brains. People that never able, able to see that were born blind, they’re going to be able to see. But also, it’s going to help with Alzheimer’s. So people that have suffered from Alzheimer’s, they’re going to be able to remember a lot better, and are doing human trials on that right now. Which is like mind-blowing that they’re doing that. I see stuff like that coming. I do believe technology’s going to get so advanced, especially on the AI side, that there’s going to be a lot less jobs. There’s going to be a lot less jobs that’s going to be going on.
I think the biggest thing that people can do is, how can they incorporate AI into their own business to become successful, and just be willing to accept it, because it doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and technology doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You just have to learn to adapt and grow with it. But I really do see in the future that probably won’t be using Zoom anymore. If we’re going to do anything that’s going to be distance related, whether it’s diagnosing somebody, or seeing a patient with health, or mental health conditions, you’re going to be able to do it in VR, drop of a dime. Even those big headsets, they’re probably going to be the size of a contact lens in the future. Just putting a contact lens, you’re just going to see everything. Or just the size of glasses.
It’s kind of wild to talk about. I feel like the mad scientist and one of those stories, that’s telling everybody what’s going to happen and nobody’s listening. Nobody’s listening to the [inaudible 0:27:53], but I think that’s where we’re going. And I think it’s going to happen a lot faster than what people realize. But I just tell people to get on board, especially when it comes to depression. That’s kind of what I’ve been seeing so much getting into the mental health space, is I’m seeing just a lot of men who suffer from depression because they don’t want to talk to anyone. Then one of the big things that people use VR for is to put people in simulations where they can feel at peace, so you can be sitting and actually feel like you’re on a beach in Costa Rica with a mimosa sitting beside you, and putting people into those spaces. Or actually letting some NBA players before the game, put these types of simulations on. They’re just sitting in the most beautiful forest, the most beautiful winter, Iceland, and just having these marvelous, beautiful views before games, and it’s relaxing them, it’s helping them with depression and stuff.
One of the biggest things I see in mental health that is lacking is that there’s not a lot of things that men are using to help with therapy or depression. I believe that this will give another avenue because men, we do like video games. This is going to be perfect for men, especially when they go into deeper sides of therapy in depression to help them battle these types of things. Because if you think about all the school shooters, you think about the murderers, the worst people in the world, those people are depressed. A lot of times, they don’t want to talk to therapists, but this will be another avenue for them to take as well.
[0:29:10] JW: As you were talking, I think about – now, like I said, I’m a millennial, even though not in spirit, but in age, I’m a millennial. I was thinking about, there’s a show called A Different World, right? People who have ever seen a different world is basically about these students, college students attending a historically black college and university. In one of the later episodes, Dwayne Wayne is trying to create this video game, right? Toward the end of the series. He’s trying to create this video game that takes baseball, and it helps kids learn English a little bit better. And one of the things his wife Whitley is talking to him is like, “Why do you keep working on that computer still? Why do you keep doing all this stuff?” He’s like, “Babe, this is the future. Everybody is going to be walking around with little computers in a pocket” What did we get? Little computers in our pockets.
[0:30:06] TW: Even The Jetsons too. The Jetsons had the little – the watch they were talking to communicate people with, and we had that now.
[0:30:13] JW: Inspector Gadget, because Inspector Gadget along with his little watch.
[0:30:17] TW: Yes, and it does everything like. I think about how much your cell phone can do, right? I really, truly believe especially what Elon is doing with Neuralink, you probably will be able to do a lot of those stuff with Neuralink just in your brain. That’s the crazy part is, I don’t know if you know anything about Neuralink, but you have to get it surgically implanted. It’s a chip you have to surgically implant in your brain. Your brains are actually in your skull, but it’s in your head, and it’s going to be doing a lot of different things. I think what he’s going to be doing in the future is going to be transcending to a lot of technology in general. So yeah, all the stuff that we see, it might be – I don’t know, if they’re like signs, or whatever, but it’s not far-fetched. It’s like, if you can imagine it, it’s definitely possible now.
[0:30:55] JW: Yes. We definitely need to be on the lookout for sure, for how this technology is changing, and evolving, and how we incorporate it into our work, in our practice, and our research. Because like we’ve had throughout this entire discussion, there are going to be some great things about it, there are going to be some not-so-great things about it. Thinking about it now is going to be helpful, and how do we address some of these things as the technology continues to grow? As we get ready to wrap up this conversation, I’ve got to ask you my signature question, which is, what brings you joy in your work?
[0:31:35] TW: That’s a great question. I think it’s – as I’ve been going through, and working with so many different people, I’ve just really been big on just the impact that I’ve been trying to have just especially on the men’s mental health side. In America, the second cause of death for men under the age of 45 is suicide. In the United Kingdom, that’s the first cause of death for men under age 45. The second cause is homicide. We’re either killing ourselves, or we’re killing each other. I think that, for the longest time, you just don’t really hear a lot about just men’s mental health. But I think the biggest thing is really just trying to make an impact on health and grow. I always tell men, especially when I speak to them that, if you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present. But through peace, you’ll undoubtedly still meet yourself until happiness.
But I always tell them, just remember that the secret of happiness is not found by seeking more, but developing the capacity to enjoy less. I believe that we can really divide and conquer when we specially use different types of technology, to try to conquer so many different aspects of just health, and mental health, and just awareness in general. I believe that as we grow and just keep growing as technology grows, and just growing as humanity, I pray that we find a way to be able to use these things, this knowledge, and this new technology to really help bridge the gap, and help men, and not just men, and women, of course, as well. But especially men, because it’s really just not a big enough topic that we just talked about in general. There’s a lot of men hurting out there for sure.
[0:33:05] JW: Yes. For people who want to learn more about Meta Wellness, learn more about the metaverse, and mental health, and the technology that they want to incorporate or just learn more about in public health, mental health, and this entire space. How can they get in touch with you? What does that look like, and what do you offer through Meta Wellness?
[0:33:26] TW: Yes, hit me up. Hit me up on LinkedIn [inaudible 0:33:29] or you can visit our website at www.metawellness.space. You can check out some of the platforms that we have there. That’s not all the things that we’ve done. We’ve built rage rooms, we put groups, therapy people on waterfalls, and where the stars are just beaming down on. We’ve done so many different types of really cool things. If you have any interest, or if you want to see the links of what VR and AI can do, just definitely hit us up and we can take care of you. Oh, you can follow me on Instagram too, @terrancewilliamsvr.
[0:33:59] JW: Okay, cool. We certainly appreciate your time, and for helping, I don’t know if it helped ease my fears about technology and the metaverse.
[0:34:08] TW: Probably getting worse. Probably getting worse.
[0:34:10] JW: Probably getting worse, but I still appreciate the [inaudible 0:34:14].
[0:34:13] TW: No, you’re definitely the person in the movie that’s just like, “All right, yes. That’s not going to happen. I’m just like the old guy.” Like look, just listen to me. ” You’re just like, “Whatever.” Then the end of the world coming, you’re like, “Oh, no. It’s too late now.”
[0:34:25] JW: Yes. All right. I’ll do my best to get more into the technologies, but I appreciate this conversation, and that wraps up this episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:37:16.0] JW: I am so grateful for this time we get to spend together. If you enjoyed this episode, I need you to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit www.joyeewashington.com. This is where research meets relationship and I’ll see you next time on The Public Health Joy Podcast.
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