The Rise Of Digital Technology In Mental Health

The question “How are you feeling?” is one of the more common inquiries of a person’s life. Yet, mood has been difficult to quantify and understand through technology due to the many factors that go into a person’s mood and the uniqueness of mood constructs among individuals. However, as cognitive technology and artificial intelligence continue to advance, humans may be able to understand mood and mental health in a new way – through the power of our smartphones. From machine learning to enhanced mobile capabilities, there is more opportunity to put ideas to the test with digital technology than ever before.

With the announcement of Apple’s ResearchKit in March 2015, developers and health care professionals have been working to develop applications that leverage the functionality of the smartphone to aid in research – whether that’s using sensors, facial recognition, accelerometer or GPS tracking. In addition to Apple’s ResearchKit and functionality, IBM Watson and the cognitive technology it offers have created opportunities to put the evolving phenomenon of machine learning to the test in initiatives to advance the level of cognition in the technology we use in our day-to-day lives.

For those in the mental health industry, this is an important innovation. Today, approximately 1 out of every 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness, equating to 43.8 million people. Of that number, it’s known that millennials – specifically those aged 18-25 – have the highest prevalence of experiencing a depressive episode. From depression to anxiety to other mood disorders, NAMI estimates that serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year. The need for innovation exists, and the time is now.

Beyond mental illness and mood disorders, mood is an important factor of life for all of society. Human beings strive for wellness of body and mind – we want to feel good, be happy and live well.