7 Companies Using Tech To Improve Mental Health
Is your business thinking about mental health?
Mental health is a hugely profitable market. Now that the stigma surrounding mental health issues is gradually lifting, more people are considering the importance of wellbeing. Not only is this an opportunity for businesses to build genuinely useful, lucrative products and services, but it has encouraged companies to look at the wellness of their own employees as a driver for success.
Recognition, however, is not the same as a remedy. If anything, mental health problems are becoming more prominent. By 2030, for example, the World Health Organisation estimates that depression will place the largest single burden on healthcare globally… Here are seven organisations trying to do something about it.
hero was set up in 2018 to take a proactive, personal approach to wellbeing. The startup provides wellness support across the spectrum through a digital platform called Navigator. Navigator collects data from wearables and apps to build a curated experience for each user based on their individual health goals. Users can also access their own wellness library, where helpful materials like podcasts and articles can be added and stored. The startup works with corporates, operators (like residential homes or student accommodation), as well as professional sports companies. This summer, hero will open their first consumer fitness location in Angel Park, Manchester. Companies like hero are becoming increasingly important in employee wellbeing.
While meditation doesn’t work for everyone, it’s generally though to have a positive effect on mental health. Muse, developed by Canadian company Interaxon, is a lightweight headset that works as a meditation aid. The wearable measures brain activity via four electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, and then converts the EEG signal into complementary audio feedback. For example, if the wearer is stressed, the device will play soothing sounds. The device measures the user’s progress over time, helping the wearer to gauge how effective their meditation sessions are. The company’s first headset was launched in 2014, followed by a second version, the Muse 2, in late 2018. As well as measuring EEG signals, the Muse 2 tracks body movement, breathing, and heart rate.
Founded in 2017, Unmind is a holistic digital platform for workplace health. The company’s proactive approach is part of the wider migration from cure to prevention, improving wellness as a whole rather than addressing existing problems. Instead of ‘solving’ any given mental health issue, Unmind advocates better mental health regardless of where users are on the spectrum. Through a clinically validated assessment tool called the Unmind Index, users are given a personal score profile that directs them to a range of relevant content. This includes a learning development platform and a daily mood diary. The company works with a number of major businesses like Made.com, John Lewis Partnership and the Yorkshire Building Society.
Therapy itself might be difficult, but so is getting a therapist in the first place. Long waiting lists, contrasting schedules, and expense can make the therapy process a headache before it even begins. Talkspace aims to reduce the barriers to therapy by matching user profiles with a network of more than 3,000 licensed therapists. With prices starting at $50 a week, it isn’t cheap… But it is easy. Users can message their therapist via an app at any time, anywhere. Users can also schedule in video calls. This is a far cry from automated chatbots which, while useful, are of questionable quality. The company also offers Talkspace for Teens, Couples Therapy and Talkspace for business.
5) The Cornerstone Partnership
The Cornerstone Partnership has developed a number of VR scenarios to help people to understand the mental health of children who have experienced the social care system. The initiative, called Cornerstone VR, uses virtual reality scenarios to help viewers understand how abuse impacts children. Being able to understand why people behave as they do as a result of abuse is key to building positive relationships and avoiding future mental health issues. Cornerstone VR provides the world’s first virtual reality experience for immersive therapeutic support and works with over 30 local authorities in the UK. Virtual reality has also been used by Samaritans to help others experience mental health related distress.
6) Born Digital Health
Born Digital Health is the company behind Sleepstation, a digital platform that aims to provide the same level of treatment as a physical sleep clinic without the barriers of time and travel. The ‘drug free solution to overcoming insomnia’ asks users to carry out a review week to determine if they have insomnia. The data is then used to provide personalised advice and an online version of CBTi (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia). Sleepstation is currently used in 37 countries worldwide. In the UK, the service is also available through the NHS and Bupa. Sleepstation is yet another example of how healthcare is moving beyond the hospital.
It’s not just startups with their heads in the mental health space. In 2015, IBM attempted to create a machine learning system that could predict the risk of psychosis. Due to various limitations, the project failed to return impressive results. However, in 2018, IBM tried again. Instead of focussing on one subject, the second system analysed speech data from 59 people. The second iteration of the model was able to predict the likelihood of psychosis with 83 per cent accuracy. The software’s success is an important marker in the development of neuropsychiatric assessment and, in light of the trend of democratisation in AI, could signal more accessible mental health support.
As we can see from the above examples, mental health has well and truly gone mobile. It has also seeped into the worlds of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, hinting at the potential to impact (and be impacted by) other disruptive technologies. Now that good mental health is a marker of profitable and purposeful business, companies should keep watch on wellness.
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