Global Mental Health Databank to Use Connected Technologies

Nov. 19, 2020
Sage Bionetworks leading study that will collect data from youth participants about their lived experience with mental health self-management

Seattle-based Sage Bionetworks is leading an international group of researchers in a feasibility study to enable youth from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and India to work directly with mental health researchers to better understand how young people can manage their mental health.

Sage is working with researchers from Oxford University, University of Cambridge, University of Washington, Walter Sisulu University, Higher Health, and the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy at the Indian Law Society on the Global Mental Health Databank.

Relying on mobile phones and other connected technologies, the study will collect data from youth participants about their lived experience with mental health self-management. This project will work directly with youth and researchers to build the blueprint for a global mental health program that directly collects data and provides insights to youth around the world. It will test how youth wish to interact with and use this system to advance understanding of mental health.

This project is funded by the mental health area team at the Wellcome Trust as key infrastructure necessary to enable their work to identify the next generation of treatments and approaches to prevent, intervene, manage and stop relapse of anxiety and depression in young people.

“We are excited to create a system that supports both youth and researchers in understanding mental health management strategies,” said Lara Mangravite, Ph.D., president of Sage, in a statement. “We think it’s essential to start by developing a system that empowers young people to directly guide how their data is collected, shared and used.”

The hope is that collecting this data will provide insight about how a person’s daily activities and surroundings affect their health and the success of their health-management strategies. For example, can changes in sleep habits, social interactions or financial security help mitigate anxiety?

Sage will also be testing the ability to operate a program of this nature at scale with the varied data privacy regulations of participating countries.

The team from the University of Washington will bring their experience in working with people coping with mental health challenges and how connected technologies can help assess mental health.

“Nearly every young person in the world has access to connected technologies and these technologies provide a window into their social, physical and emotional lives,” said Patricia Areán, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in a statement. “By banking this data, we hope to provide the opportunity to discover which strategies do and do not help them manage their mental health.”

The project envisions the databank as a platform that connects participants and researchers interested in studying the effects of contextual determinants, experiences, behaviors, and interventions in a real-world setting. To be successful, this platform must be technically feasible, beneficial to both data contributors and researchers, and it must operate under parameters that promote data justice, Sage said in a press release.

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