How could tech help combat mental health problems?
Women are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide, but men are up to four times as likely to successfully commit suicide. Why? Men are less likely to talk about their emotions and report mental health problems.
This is a combination of genetic disposition, but also cultural pressure for men not to express feelings of perceived weakness.
The Internet is a window into the mind - where people feel less inhibited to talk about intimate issues. Mood mapping is a probe into the emotional prompts sent via google searches and social media.
Emoticons are rarely used ironically and subtle indications like mouse movement can pick up on fatigue, anxiety and negative thoughts. The Internet might be an opportunity to pick up on the first cues related to mental illness.
Several companies are adopting fatigue detection technology to alert the individual and/ or their manager when they are anxious. Facebook has a suicide prevention feature that can pick up on patterns of behaviour that suggest dangerous moods
The charity Samaritans has launched, then suspended a Twitter app which enabled users to monitor the accounts of their friends for distressing messages. Kat Cormack, founder of the mental health startup Buddy, commented on what had happened.
The age of onset for most mental illnesses are during adolescence and the twenties, which overlaps nicely with the most active social media and tech users.
Full view: Here
Could tech be causing more mental illness among young people, or could it actually be an alternative to combat mental illness? According to Pew’s Teens and Technology Report, 37% of all teens have smartphones now, up from 23% in 2011. Smartphones allow access to online social networking and the web, which could mean that mood mapping and mental health online support could be offered.
Full view: Here
Online bullying and digital humiliation is on the uptick, but the possibility for detection has also opened up. The Guardian just reported on a new study that found that children who were bullied by peers were more likely to have mental health problems in the long run.
Explainer from the study: "Being bullied only refers to being bullied by peers in at least one timepoint. Overall mental health problem refers to having anxiety, depression, or self-harm or suicidality. For GSMS: percentages are weighted. Source: here. Fullview: here
The mood mapping technologies (such as on Twitter, mentioned here in a piece by the New Scientist) could flag potential problems and direct the individual to professional help for early intervention.
But is this all a bit too big brother? Do we want our bosses to know when we are having a rough day? Are teenagers willing to let their parents in on their digital searches? Who should be monitoring who?