doctor showing patient her brain scan on a monitor

Technology for Mental Health and Well-Being Interventions

Mental health is the number 1 disability in the world today with about 18% of US adults suffering from mental health illness in a given year. It is one of the most stigmatized and hidden disabilities, and 75% of these people suffering do not seek the help they need. On average, mental health disability costs over $1 trillion every year in lost productivity.

In MSR HUE, our goal is to empower people by promoting emotional resilience and well-being. In the mental health context, this means that we strive to reduce the gap between people who suffer from mental illness, whether it is diagnosed, long-term, or situational, and the tools and interventions that can help them. We believe that technology-enhanced mental health and well-being interventions can reduce barriers to and increase engagement in activities that promote well-being and self-efficacy.

We approach this topic in the following ways.

  • Translating evidence-based interventions to be available on technology platforms
  • Infusing mental health interventions in our workplace products
  • Collaborating with institutions to deliver technology-enabled psychosocial care

Below are three projects in this topic that highlight our effort.

Pocket Skills

Pocket Skills is a mobile app designed to help people better manage their mental health by translating evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to technology-delivered interventions. Pocket Skills is a conversational platform to help people learn and implement concrete coping skills to better manage negative events and emotions. In the past, we have used Pocket Skills platform to provide holistic support for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), where our preliminary investigations indicated the potential for Pocket Skills to foster statistically and clinically significant improvements in depression, anxiety, and coping skill use. In this project, we are interested in learning (1) how to translate evidence-based practices into technology-delivered interventions that are clinically efficacious in improving people’s mental health and (2) how to leverage individuals’ app and skill usage data, including contextual information, personal characteristics, goals, and self-reported outcomes, to recommend the most effective interventions based on the individual characteristics and their contexts.

External Collaborators: Jessica Schroeder (UW CSE), Chelsey Wilks (Harvard Psychology), Marsha Linehan (UW Psychology)

Interventions at Work

We believe that everyone experiences moments at work where a positive coping mechanism could help improve their well-being and productivity. Stress at work can manifest in many different ways, including distractions from tasks or expression of negative affect. Helping people pay attention to these behaviors could help them refocus or take necessary and appropriate actions. In our Focus Agent project, we developed a conversational agent that monitors your distracted behaviors and provides gentle nudges for a small break or a gentle prompt to refocus on their tasks. In one of the Hackathon projects, we envisioned a well-being chat bot that could provide just-in-time, evidence-based interventions to help you manage your mental health and build positive work habits over time to prevent burnout and reduce stress.

External Collaborators: Ted Grover (UCI Informatics), Gloria Mark (UCI Informatics)

Technology-Enhanced Collaborative Care

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death world wide with an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States diagnosed in 2018 and nearly 35% death rate. Depression is one of the most common challenges for patients during and after cancer treatments, and up to 24% of cancer patients have been clinically diagnosed with depression. Depression is associated with decreased quality of life, decreased adherence to medical care, and increased suicide and healthcare costs. Unfortunately, depression is severely under-treated in cancer patients, and about 75% of patients will not receive adequate treatment, including 25% that will receive no treatment at all. In this project, we are collaborating with the University of Washington and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to design and develop technologies to facilitate, deliver, and enhance integrative behavioral care in cancer centers to reduce the number of cancer patients with psychosocial care needs that fall through the cracks!

External Collaborators: Gary Hsieh (UW HCDE), Amy Bauer (UW Psychiatry), James Fogarty (UW CSE), Jesse Fann (UW Psychiatry, SCCA), UW Alacrity Center