Mental health: smartphones as diagnostic tools?

Although little by little, and facing a thousand and one stigmas, mental health is taking the focus it deserves in society. There is still a long way to go for, for example, mental illnesses and disorders to stop being used as insults or reduced to states of mind, but at least they are being treated, at the level of society, with more normality. Going to therapy is ceasing to be something to hide and the younger ones, mostly (or at least those with whom I have been lucky enough to come across), believe that it is similar to going to the GP.

Thanks to this visibility and normalization of mental health, it is possible to advance better and faster in research related to it, looking for faster and more precise diagnoses, as well as new means to tackle disorders and diseases, both trying to mitigate their symptoms and attacking, whenever possible, the root of the problem (either endogenous or exogenous).

And in this sense, Engadget talk to us today from an investigation carried out by the University of Dalhousie, and whose objective is turn smartphones into systems capable of assessing the mental health of their users. The result of the investigation is PROSIT, a system that can detect conditions such as anxiety or depression depending on how you use your phone. This includes easy-to-track features like exercise, sleep, call frequency, message history, and music tastes, but it also includes subtle data. Factors such as speed and strength when writing can indicate an emotionally complex state.

About 300 people are participating in the PROSIT tests, of which approximately half are currently receiving therapy. In this way, the research team can cross-reference the data obtained by the app with the diagnosis made by mental health professionals, an approach that allows to greatly refine the interpretation carried out by the system of the data collected and valued to draw your conclusions.

We are talking about health data, yes, a type of information subject to a special level of protection and, therefore, must be managed with great security measures. And it is that, returning to the stigma of which I spoke before, mental health can be an exclusive element in social, professional, etc. settings. In this regard, the researchers state that, During the testing phase, all data is being stored in secure locations. However, in the event that PROSIT (or a similar system) becomes used, this is an aspect to which special attention will have to be paid.

The PROSIT proposal seems very, very interesting to me. We have been talking about quantifying devices for years, capable of measuring our heart rate, blood pressure, blood saturation, glucose levels … Power, at your own choice and always with the absolute control of the data, also quantify our state of mental health, it can have really positive effects among those people who begin to experience some symptoms but are unable to identify them properly.







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