A wearable device that dishes out insights about a person’s mental health is in the works. The hope is that it will help with screening, diagnosing and monitoring depression and a variety of anxiety disorders.
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Mental health problems are a growing public health concern. It is estimated that about one in five American adults experience a mental illness in any given year. Approximately 1 in 25 experience a serious condition that interferes with major life activities. It is clear that many people will face a mental health issue at some point in their life.
These statistics certainly make grim reading. What’s even worse is that many individuals remain undiagnosed due to difficulties in recognizing symptoms. But researchers now believe they can quantify physical symptoms associated with such conditions, and use them to identify potential issues early.
“Clinicians rely largely on patient self-reporting to diagnose psychiatric disorders, guide treatment and track progress,” said Andrea Webb, PhD, a principal scientist at Draper.
“It is an approach that can be subjective and vulnerable to bias, inaccuracy and incompleteness, potentially hindering the effectiveness of care.”
A wearable for mental health and wellness, SysteMD (System with Sensors to Evaluate Mental Disorders), was developed by US engineering firm Draper. It consists of a headset, wrist bands and an ankle bracelet which combine to monitor heart rate, level of sweating, respiration and diameter of pupils. The data is collected and run through a set of algorithms to identify patterns which can be linked to mental health conditions.
Pilot studies of the device have proved impressive, correctly diagnosing PTSD in 82% to 94% of cases. The system has also shown promise in identifying depression, anxiety, substance abuse and thoughts of suicide.
“With that level of accuracy, SysteMD shows promise for making a lasting impact on patients with mental illness—by enabling accurate diagnosis, supporting efficient treatment and ensuring effective monitoring over time,” Webb added.
“We believe technology can augment current clinical practice by enabling psychophysiological measurement as a diagnostic aid and evaluation tool in the treatment of mental health disorders.”
The device is expected to land sometime in 2019. Draper is hoping to one day come up with something that resembles a wristwatch or fitness tracker. This would provide insights into a person’s mental health and wellness as they go about their day.
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