Tech tools focusing on physical health have flooded the market in recent years. It should come as no surprise that tech start-ups are clamoring to get in on the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries’ staggering profits.
But what about tech designed to help those with mental health conditions? According to “Mental Health 2020: A Presidential Initiative for Mental Health,” mental health conditions plague one in five U.S. adults. That’s around 47 million Americans.
They’re affecting young people as well. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst people between the ages of 10-34 (after accidental injury), and who doesn’t know at least one adolescent or young person struggling with anxiety or depression today?
College is one reason why young adults are anxious. Exams and new environments – often sans friends, family, or a support system (at least initially) – can be challenging even for those who are not suffering from mental health conditions!
One university recently decided to take matters into its own hands. Texas A&M University researchers are developing a platform to help students keep track of their mental health. It syncs with any smartwatch and is designed to help students identify when they’re feeling stressed and gives them tools to deal with it.
The research team, led by Dr. Farzan Sasangohar, an assistant professor at the school’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, is calling the monitoring tool “Mental Health Evaluation and Lookout” – or mHelp for short. Here’s how it works:
Sensors on the wearable platform detect a series of physical triggers (such as a user’s heart rate) and, using advanced machine learning, determines the level of stress the user is experiencing. The platform then directs the anxious user to a place where he or she can get help or walks him or her through a variety of therapeutic activities.
Users can also access mobile self-assessments, educational content, and self-management tools, as well as mindfulness exercises, to alleviate stress and anxiety – all on the mobile platform. In addition, the monitoring tool integrates virtual and in-person counseling sessions. The goal is to provide students with on-demand and proactive access to mental health care.
Because the platform is vendor-neutral, any student with an off-the-shelf smartwatch can access it, which makes it easier for those who might be hesitant to seek help to use it. It also attacks anxiety from various angles, allowing users to identify their symptoms and enabling them to take control of their mental health.
Texas A&M University eventually plans on selling the platform to other universities. In the meantime, it’s heartwarming to see a university create a platform to combat anxiety and depression. It represents a positive societal paradigm shift; educational institutions and work organizations are starting to make mental health a priority.