Every year 10 October is World Mental Health Day – with the now-familiar mission of raising awareness about and destigmatising mental health problems at home and in the workplace. Here’s how the UK tech sector is addressing the problem.
Every year 10 October is World Mental Health Day – with the now-familiar mission of raising awareness about and destigmatising mental health problems at home and in the workplace.
But what is actually being done? While raising awareness is undoubtedly still necessary, mental health in Britain is at crisis levels – in no small part due to the chronic underfunding of the NHS plus the uncertain living conditions millions of people find themselves in.
Mental health is itself a somewhat nebulous term that covers vast territory. But the figures show in no uncertain terms that there is a serious amount of work to be done to help people.
Statistics from the House of Commons suggest that women are bearing 86 percent of the total austerity burden while NHS data has shown a 68 percent rise in hospital admissions among girls 17 and under in the past decade. Services for young people have been cut, affecting people from marginalised groups at greatest risk of suicide, and according to recent figures, the biggest killer for men under 45 is suicide.
So millions of people are painfully aware of the crisis in mental health through their own lived experience, suffering from acute anxiety, depression and many other crippling afflictions.
While serious systemic change has not been proffered by the government there are many organisations working hard to tackle the mental health crisis through not just awareness programmes, but action and support.
In light of world mental health day, Techworld staff have wrapped up some of the recent efforts being made from the technology industry to combat this crisis that we’ve covered. Here are some of our articles we’ve published touching this complex and wide-reaching issue:
How Monzo plans to design products around mental health needs
Challenger bank Monzo has made mental health considerations central to its design process. It’s extremely common for people suffering from mental health problems to spend more money than usual, even landing themselves in serious debt. Comfort spending, addiction spending, impulsive spending – any of these can result in serious money problems, and people with mental health issues are three times as likely to find themselves in problem debt.
Some features with Monzo include real-time visibility over your finances, including sending a notification whenever you spend – or a top up feature that helps with budgeting. And there are even features designed to protect spenders who find themselves gambling or buying unwanted products late at night – checking with the customer the following day if they really do want to confirm this purchase.
“We aren’t sure exactly what we will do,” Monzo designer Zander Brade told Techworld in a 2017 interview. “We’ll start small and allow people to restrict spending after a certain time of night, and go from there.”
NHS trust develops ‘Silver Linings’ app to help young people manage mental health
Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) teamed up with Bristol-based startup Appadoodle for a mobile app that encourages the user to answer a series of personalised questions about things such as medication, mood, diet, and general wellbeing – and coded with an algorithm to provide feedback and advice, along with tracking changes over time.
The app is tailored to each individual, so people can set their own metrics for recovery – and which issues to prioritise for their mental wellbeing, for example tackling paranoia or insomnia.
How social media takes tips from gambling to keep us hooked
Although in many ways social media helps us connect with one another, at the same time the finger can be pointed at these platforms for exacerbating anxiety in young people and contributing to the loneliness epidemic.
So why are we so hooked when these apps are not helping us feel any less lonely? Many of these apps use mechanisms normally found in gambling to keep us hooked. Phantom calls or notifications – these and more phenomena could be symptoms that your relationship with social media is harming more than it helps. Some studies have even suggested that social media addiction should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Growing evidence suggests that social media and gambling exploit the same psychological mechanisms that keep us coming back for more. Read on for an in-depth look at how this form of social interaction could be contributing to depression and anxiety, even prompting contact withdrawal symptoms in some users.
Meet the woman on a mission to make technology emotionally intelligent
Cofounder and CEO of MIT spinout Affectiva, Rana el Kaliouby, is on a mission to make technology more emotionally intelligent.
First developed by el Kaliouby and Rosalind Picard to help people with autism better understand social and emotional cues, the faculty encouraged the two to commercialise the technology. Although early applications were in marketing and advertising, el Kaliouby says she’s particularly inspired by developments in education and healthcare technology, and one area the company is paying attention to is in developing responsive mental health applications.
How 25 startups are opening up about mental health at work
A relatively new venture called Sanctus has been leading the charge in London’s tech sector in trying to get employers to sign a ‘mental health pledge’ – which would commit them to creating an open environment where people affected by mental health are supported and can “bring their full selves to work”.
As one of the signatories told us at the time: “If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t leave your crutches outside the office door. Why should you be expected to do that for your mental health?”
Our tech for social good slideshow also captures some worthwhile projects, including a smartwatch app designed to help those suffering from PTSD to get to sleep, while our virtual reality slideshow details a VR project from Oxford University to help people with their anxiety.
Helplines as listed by the NHS:
Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Email [email protected]
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page
Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm
Text 07786 209697
Email [email protected]
Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill
The Silver Line – for older people
Call 0800 4 70 80 90
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