‘Mobile apps open up new possibilities for mental health care’ (Concord Monitor – 9/14/14 – Full Article)
Article Excerpt: Lisa Marsch, the center’s director, said developing effective mobile mental health technologies means first exploring several questions: Do people use these apps? Do they actually work? And how do you make sure the people who might benefit most from these tools actually engage with them?
One of the center’s researchers, Dror Ben-Zeev, has worked on apps that capture data from people living with schizophrenia. When the app detects that someone’s symptoms are escalating, Marsch said, it can direct that person to engage in behavioral strategies – breathing exercises, for example – to try to prevent a psychotic episode.
Other projects are exploring how to leverage the myriad data captured inside a cell phone’s sensors – sound coming in through its microphone, location information, light exposure and more – to monitor patterns that would be indicative of mental health problems, Marsch said. Researchers are, for example, monitoring whether the levels of ambient light in someone’s room or certain speech patterns can measure depression or sociability levels, she said.
As with other apps, Marsch said it’s critical for potential users to understand the level of sensitive data that they’d be sharing by engaging with these technologies. Providers would need to carefully review these issues with potential patients, she said, and it wouldn’t hurt to offer some kind of statement in writing about what using these apps would mean for patients’ privacy, medical or otherwise.
But if done right, Marsch said these apps could be immensely valuable as a new approach to community-based mental health.