Thoughts on Mental Health Tech

I recently read this article on a potential California system to identify and push along services to the mentally ill in order to better support and service their journey to healthy. Frankly, I don’t think people realize how useful it can be (as long as the service is very much opt-in).

The most important priority in any person with a mental illness and/or serious mental illness is to get healthy. The disease they have affects behavior based on internal mechanisms of something that’s, right now, unnoticeable. Generally, what that leads to is a lack of understanding and help for the individual to go anywhere in life until they’ve shown and proven to be healthy and productive to any new person. So, the question arises: how do you know someone’s healthy with a mental health condition? What are the factors to look at? Are they a “danger” to themselves or anybody else?

Doctors, as always, can give an approval that someone is healthy enough to contribute back to society (though that’s a tough situation to be in to give approval about someone’s human rights to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness). Also, some peer and support network can give the a-ok that they’re ready to go (in the best case scenario). Though, no one really has a standardized plan for these efforts, as of yet, on any real scale. Also, unfortunately, medical science just can’t pick up on real-time internal mechanisms for behavior right now (at least I haven’t seen anything great and useful).

The technology that is available, like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, are trying to get there alongside other apps that track your CNS, but it’s really not accurate enough. Plus, they’re all new, unproven tech that is going through growth and needs to be researched and proven in clinical trials, IMO. Most monitors right now, like the fMRI scan and blood tests, are static.

I’ll disclose: Personally, as a person with a 10+ year tech career and a good understanding of how some of this stuff works…as well as with a serious mental illness myself (yes, very much stabilized now), I want to prove I’m capable of leading a very productive life to anyone new I meet. That’s where, I think, Mindstrong has a potentially fully realizable dream. It’s where the 20% of the population suffering from a mental illness can fully say, “yes, I’m either unhealthy or healthy enough to contribute to society on any level and to any person or group of people”. Incredibly important and a hugely untapped market.

I don’t give one crap about the privacy concerns, as long as I opt-in, because I’d gladly give that up, in my situation, in order to live a great and productive life again (the same or better one than I had before – which is saying a lot). That’s the state I and many others are in from what I’ve seen. Not a good situation to be in life. Further, a lot of this tech would help drastically improve scientific understanding of a very unknown set of illnesses. That’s worth it for any set of privacy concerns to get and gain stability.