Digital products for Mental Health pt. 1

A couple of weeks back I gave a talk at Psykiatridagene. Psykiatridagene is organized by The Danish Mental Health Fund and is focusing on relevant subjects within mental illness and health.
My talk had the title “Digital products for Mental Health”, and was about the possibilities with digital platforms and mental health — Now I’ve decided to turn it into a blog post.

Technology and mental health

Digital products and social media have been strongly criticized for contributing to the rising mental health issues, especially amongst young people. So it might seem paradoxical to introduce it as a solution to the problem.

Digital products and our smartphones is a fully integrated part of our everyday lives. The iPhone was introduced more than 10 years ago and thereby also the tendency and expectation to always be on.

It might seem paradoxical to introduce it as a solution to the problem.

And when technology is moving so fast, it’s not strange that we’ve also introduced some inconvenient ways of using it.
However, it is important to separate technology from the problem, it is about what the technology is designed and used for.

Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone 29. June 2007
However, it is important to separate technology from the problem, it is about what the technology is designed and used for.

But, who am I?

I work as a digital product designer meaning I develop digital products using design. Often I help companies create new products and business streams, or I help develop existing ones using design.
Starting from figuring out what areas and problems to tackle, all the way to deciding colours of the buttons.

For the past year, I’ve been exploring and developing digital products for mental health and specifically for social anxiety, the fear of being judged by others.

The work resulted in Steps, a chatbot targeted students at higher education. Steps used principles from exposure therapy to give users small challenges, with the goal of improving in; making new friends, presenting in class etc.
Steps never communicated anything about anxiety, loneliness or mental health, but only about the possibilities of improvement.

Unfortunately, Steps does not exist anymore, but it has taught me a lot about the possibilities and limitations that come with combining technology and mental health.

Steps chatbot

Possibilities and limits

A digital product cannot replace human contact, at least not yet and I personally don’t find that a very interesting goal.
Instead, for those who work with patients or citizens, it may be able to help them help faster. And maybe also provide tools for people to become more self-reliant.

One of the more obvious opportunities are the groups of people we can reach.
It takes a lot for the individual to seek help from a psychologist, therapist, doctor, student councillor etc. So people who wouldn’t seek professional help is an interesting target group and groups who may feel stigmatized or doesn’t have the resources; like financials, time etc.

Cases

In a follow-up post, I will show you three examples of technology used as treatment and prevention for mental health issues — Stay tuned!