There’s no such thing as TMI when it comes to mental health
“How are you feeling today?”
It’s a loaded question to say the least. To a stranger one might blindly respond, “great, thanks, how are you?” no matter the chaos one’s life may be in. To a friend, the reply might consist of a bit more information, sharing more happy, sad, or in-between emotions. But what is the response when you pose the question to yourself? One app is hoping to capture that answer and more.
How Is The World Feeling Today is hoping to track the emotions of 7 million people over a one-week period, starting Monday, October 10, which also happens to mark World Mental Health Day.
“Despite the increase in awareness of mental health over the past several years, there’s still a long way to go before mental health conversations are the norm. We think everyone taking part in the world’s largest mental health project is a pretty good conversation starter,” the project’s website reads.
Beyond starting a conversation around mental health, the app is also hoping to provide medical professionals with tools and insights into the world’s emotions.
“What we think is the most exciting thing about the project is that all anonymous data collected will be made open source for anyone around to world to use,” Lee Crockford, the project’s cofounder, tells GOOD via email. This means any mental health professional, non-governmental organization, or individual can use the anonymous data collected. He adds,
“For those in the mental health sector, this is a indicator of when is the best time to tackle anxiety, for transport companies it’s useful data about their customers, and for law firms it provides data on how they might structure their days.”
The app’s interface is simple, sleek, and engaging to use. Once users sign on, they are taken through a quick survey about their lives, including questions on religious affiliations, job status, familial relationships, and more. After the survey, users are then asked about their emotional state and where they are while feeling a certain way, to help both the individual and one-day mental health professionals identify stress triggers.
“It’s all part of a tapestry,” Crockford explains of how the app can fit into a larger mental health plan. “Different people respond to different methods, services, and approaches. I think there’s certainly room for both.”
Along with tracking our individual emotions, the broader goal of the app, Crockford says, is to help combat the global suicide epidemic. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, “from 1999 through 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 24 percent, from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 population.”
The app’s initial launch in 2014, which garnered more than 20,000 responses, also provided important and telling data about just how stressed out we all are. “Referring to the data from our 2014 pilot, one of the big surprises was how similar men and women actually are in their emotions,” Crockford says, additionally noting, “example data from the 2014 Australian pilot could [provide] specific data like: Men aged 14-24 in law were most anxious between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on weekday mornings when commuting.” Women, Crockford adds on the site, tend to experience peak stress in the middle of the day and in the beginning of the week.
The app aims to help people not only recognize obvious stress-inducing moments such as being stuck in traffic or preparing for a big meeting, it also hopes to help people become more aware of “smaller nuances,” in their daily lives that may trigger a stressful or anxious response. The more a person uses the app, the more aware the app, and the person, will become of these moments. Once the app recognizes a pattern, it will then suggest resources or tools for users to combat their anxiety.
How Is The World Feeling Today, which is available on iOS and Android, estimates the global cost of mental health to reach more than $2.5 trillion per year. Hopefully, as a collective voice, we can all help find more effective ways to combat stress and anxiety in the world.