• April 19, 2017
Users would be able to access the platform via computer or smart devices. Photo: Katie Tomasi Edwards
A new programme is being crowdfunded to create a platform to detect early signs of mental health concerns.
Brain9D is a digital tool that first collects personal and medical history then gathers weekly questionnaires and facial recordings analysing the person’s emotional status, heart and respiratory rate and stress level.
Brain9D’s founder Lama Kamel, a biochemist in Canada who specialises in neurofeedback, said the main purpose was to help people across all English-speaking countries access information about their mental health and take action if required.
“Our aim is for people to understand their mental health and provide tools to manage and maintain it as much as possible from the comfort of their homes.”
Currently there are no regular brain health check-ups available, unlike regular physical health checks. Ms Kamel said Brain9D would fill this gap.
“This is an app which will help people decide when to go to a doctor, it does not replace medical professionals but rather, complements them.”
Ms Kamel said minor mental health issues can be tackled through their intervention tools online with brain training activities, support groups and connections with clinicians.
Aucklander Danielle Ellin, who has suffered from mental health problems, doesn’t see the app working.
“I’m a big fan of apps that help track my mental health, they must be user friendly and simple. I would consider using this if they could explain the science a little more, it seems complicated.”
The app will cost people $70 NZD each year, which Ms Ellin said was too much.
“Especially if the target audience are mentally ill people, from my experience we don’t have a lot of money lying around and to spend that much on an app seems a little ridiculous.”
Ms Kamel hoped the services would be free one day, but said there were unavoidable development costs at this stage.
Ministry of Health’s technology and digital services officer Ann-Marie Cavanagh, who has been involved with implementing innovation in digital health, said the ministry keeps an eye on new apps in development.
Ms Cavanagh said people should always seek medical advice first before relying on an app.
Senior lecturer at Massey University’s School of Psychology Dr Linda Jones said she was unsure of how effective the app would be.
“I think your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the reliability of apps at recognising facial expressions as an accurate indicator of mood, it’s not very reliable most likely.”
Dr Jones said if a programme like this helped spread brain awareness, it was a positive.
“It is a good message that brains, like other parts of the body can get sick.”