Why We’re Helping Parents Track their Child’s Mental Health
Mental health disorders have been surrounded by stigma for years, even though 1 in 5 US adults will suffer from a mental health condition during their lifetime. Several factors, including this stigma, contribute to the fact that the average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years. Those are staggering statistics, considering how much progress we have made regarding physical health in the past few years. As someone who has witnessed the devastating effects a mental health disorder can have on a friend or loved one’s life, I began asking myself: “What can I, as an individual, do to lower these numbers?”
I underwent training to become a Mental Health First Aider, and actively participated in Mental Health Awareness Week activities. I realized, however, that although my work was helping those closest to me, I was not being efficient in reaching a large number of people — I wasn’t optimizing my skills. After all, I am an engineer for a reason, and that is because I chose technology, specifically electronics and computing, as the way to make a positive impact in the world.
Many of us have been in the situation where a friend or loved one, opens up about their mental health issues, telling us they have been struggling for a long time. It is at that point that we think “How didn’t I notice? Could I have helped earlier?” We might think “If only I had been there a couple years ago, I could have helped to prevent this”. It turns out “a couple years ago” would not have been long enough in around half the cases, since 50% of all lifetime mental illness begin in childhood or early adolescence. This makes parents one of the key players in identifying a young child’s signs of a mental health disorder early enough to develop a treatment program to improve their outcome. So how can I use technology to help them?
The answer came when discussing the problem with four of my friends at Cornell Tech and the Parson’s School of Design: Katie Donahoe, Austin Li, Johnway Yih and Queena Wang — the best team I could hope for! Together we will be taking on the challenge of using the latest technology to help parents understand their child’s emotional state, and be able to identify patterns that might indicate a concern to take to a professional. All in the shape of a fluffy children’s toy!
Stay tuned, wēbē is coming!