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How tech is widening the discussion around mental health

How tech is widening the discussion around mental health

This year’s Mental Health Week (8-14th May) will focus on raising the discussion around mental health and uncovering why too few of us are thriving with good mental health. The Mental Health Foundation rightly argues that rather than focusing on mental ill-health, we should be exploring how we can cultivate good mental wellbeing; shaping a national approach that individuals, families, and communities can utilise to reframe our attitudes to mental health.

The recent support that the young royals – William, Kate and Harry – have given to Heads Together has brought mental health and well-being to the forefront of the nation’s mind. Their simple message that “shattering stigma on mental health starts with simple conversations” is one that everyone should take on board.

With this conversation finally getting the national attention it deserves, we have witnessed a sudden explosion in technology specifically focused on improving mental health alongside creating new therapies and tools to help diagnose and treat mental illness.

Wellbeing

A key area that technology has opened up is mental wellbeing and mindfulness. With figures of those suffering from anxiety and depression on the rise, it is essential that people focus on reducing stress in their everyday lives.

Apps, such as Headspace and Calm, show users how 10 minutes of simple meditation and mindful exercises can help create a more positive perspective of the world around us. These apps have been proven to be effective in treating those suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain. Picking up on the serious implications stress can have on our everyday lives, these apps have pioneered the way for digital meditation – making the benefits accessible to more people than ever before.

Marko Ahtisarri, the ex-head of product design at Nokia, has also launched the Sync Project to explore the impact music has on the brain and how this can help increase relaxation. The project has developed a Slack bot that delivers a personalised playlist to 400 teams around the world which encourages listeners to feed back on their reactions to the music. Through this bot, the project applies machine learning to curate personalised music therapy to trigger health benefits.

Sync Project combines Artificial Intelligence (AI) with music from British ambient trio Marconi Union to tackle stress levels, utilising recent research that has shown that music affects the same neural pathways that are regulated by psychostimulants and other drugs. It is still in early stages, but it offers an interesting insight into how AI can create personalised therapy.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Alongside creating technology which can help people better understand what contributes to good mental health, there have been several advancements in technology which assist doctors in diagnosing and treating certain medical issues.

One such MedTech product that has been receiving praise is Babylon, the ‘virtual doctor’ which offers patients instant, digitised consultations through their app, ultimately cutting down the time wasted trying to get a doctor’s appointment. The AI tool helps doctors by providing them with a diagnosis of more routine conditions and puts you directly in touch with your GP – whether it by via messenger or a GP video chat.

US based NeuroLex has also utilised AI technology to create a service which screen’s patients for schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s Disease. The company’s CEO Jim Schwoebel was inspired to create the product after his own brother developed psychosis. It took doctors more than 10 primary-care appointments to diagnosis his psychosis and Schwoebel wanted to make a service that could do this faster, by recording and then analysing a patient’s conversations with a doctor to spot any linguistic clues of mental illness.

These companies are proof that mental health and the wider conversation are beginning to break into the mainstream tech scene, encouraging new discoveries to help in advance conversations around mental wellbeing and diagnosis. Combined with the increasing number of safe spaces being launched online, such as Big White Wall, this is definitely an area of innovation to watch.

Top 10 Medtech Companies to Watch at CES 2016

Another year, another CES, brimming with start-ups and household names alike, looking to become the next big tech trend. But who will come out victorious? In the last of our six-part series, we give our verdict on the most interesting and diverse innovations in the medical technology category.

Image Courtesy of also iot, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of also iot, flickr.com

  • Owlet – Owlet is a sock-shaped baby vitals monitor which is the only to use hospital tech pulse oximetry. The sock alerts parents if their baby stops breathing. Owlet comes in three sock sizes to fit little ones until they are 18 months old.
  • Aipoly – Aipoly helps blind and visually impaired people by using technology to identify objects around them. Their app uses artificial intelligence to understand what a phone or tablet’s camera is seeing and describes what it is seeing out loud. An exciting development with the potential to change the way the blind interact with the world around them.
  • Digitsole – Digitsole creates smart shoes which warm the wearer’s feet on demand, can tighten and can also track calories burned through walking or running. The shoes also have a light in the front for nighttime runs.
  • Kolibree – Kolibree is a smart toothbrush which not only provides parents with analytics on their children’s brushing, but also incorporates a connected game, linking brushing performance to play.
  • Hidrate – Hidrate is a connected water bottle which lights up when you need to take a drink. The app suggests a personalised hydration goal and sends reminders of when you should drink more.
  • FeetMe – Keeping with the foot theme, these smart insoles analyse gait in real time. They are also a preventative solution for diabetics – some patients lose sensitivity and have ulcers that can lead to amputation. FeetMe monitors pressure to help avoid ulcers. Users can connect the insoles to smartphones via Bluetooth to monitor their data in real time.
  • HairMax – HairMax’s LaserBand 82 uses laser light to revitalise hair follicles and regrow hair. The futuristic bands use 90 seconds treatments with the medical grade lasers.
  • Quitbit Quitbit is a smart lighter that tracks and analyses the user’s smoking to help them make healthier decisions. You can check your data and set limits on when Quitbit can be used to light up to help cut down on smoking.
  • Blumio – Blumio is a pulse and blood pressure monitor, but unlike the swathes of wristbands and cuffs entering the market each week, Blumio’s sensor fits onto a smartphone case and can be held against the wrist to provide data.
Image Courtesy of Michael Sauers, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Michael Sauers, flickr.com

  • SmartyPans – These connected cooking pans are designed with the health-conscious in mind. A connected app allows users to track their nutrition intake through what they cook in the pan.

Enjoyed this post? Read more of our series on CES 2016 companies to watch: