XPRIZE Measuring Mental Health

Hi @mhackett,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Interesting points.

Thank you for your comments, @mhackett! Don’t you think it would be helpful to understand exactly how access to safe housing, clean water, sanitation and food security, etc. impact our mental health? We know this in general, but do we know what percentage of our mental health is influenced by, say, food security? Or how much more likely someone is to develop a mental-health condition if they don’t live in a clean and safe environment?

If we could quantify this, I wonder if this wouldn’t provide stronger arguments to the case for safer housing, cleaner environments, etc.?

We’re wordsmithing what we call the “winning-team-will statement” for this prize: a succinct description of what a competing team would need to do to win.

Here’s the current version, and I’d appreciate your thoughts:

Empower users to improve their mental well-being, and enhance resilience to mental disorders, based on newly-developed, objective metrics of mental health.

The next step are drafting the testing and judging criteria for the prize. Here’s what we have so far:

  • Develop objective metrics of mental health.
  • Contextualize metrics to the user, taking into account cultural, environmental, and social factors as well as diet and medical history.
  • Measure the impact of lifestyle changes on the user’s mental well-being over time.
    • Including social engagement? Social isolation and loneliness contribute to anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.
  • Prove the metrics’ accuracy by comparing against user self-assessments. (May be a little odd, since self-assessments are imperfect and that’s why we need this prize. But how else could teams prove the metrics they develop are accurate?)
  • Reduce demand for mental healthcare in the area where the solution is deployed.

With regards to mental health, awards for researchers and entrepreneurs to promote innovations in mental health. It also recommended a study prioritizing mental health for further funding. Developing tools that will act as an Expert Support System for mental health professionals is important. We also need to spearhead the strategy with stakeholder to focus on mental health and plan a grant-making via the award route for addressing serious challenges impacting human race.
We should also scope phasing for the mental health data prize for readily available mental health data sources across globe, for example South Africa.

The recent trends are alarming which have been observed in young individuals in with respect to mental health. The youth assess tool of how COVID-19 is impacting one’s mental health and counseling or seeking help for the same through online and offline mediums shall be built for awareness. The peers support and acquaintances going through mental health issues shall be more specific and resource based.

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Some alarming stats from the WHO on that:

  • Only 17% of countries had the resources to meet increases in demand for mental and psychosocial care as a result of COVID-19.
  • 8 in 10 high-income countries have deployed telemedicine and teletherapy to bridge gaps in mental health compared to just half of low-income countries.

@NatashaEO, @Mohammadimr, @mab, @LewisDean, @nowellk, @nrasgon, what is your opinion of this idea for an XPRIZE? Your expertise in behavior change and psychiatry would be very valuable to us here.

We’re in the process of designing a prize competition that would challenge competitors to develop objective metrics of mental health and integrate these into a technology that would empower users to improve their emotional and mental well-being.

The metrics would need to be contextualized to the user, including their culture, living environment, and language, and the technology would need to be able to track the impact of lifestyle changes over time.

The goal is to reduce demand for mental healthcare, by encouraging users to constantly look after their mental health and not wait until they develop more serious problems, as well as to improve diagnostics and therapy when users do need professional care.

These have only been exacerbated since the COVID-19 pandemic. The detrimental impact of COVID-19 on mental health, especially for adolescents. The closure of schools, distancing from peers, and uncertainty regarding the future are only a few reasons for increased anxiety and other mental health challenges. There is a need to encourage champion voices and hear from leading experts committed to improving the mental health infrastructure of the countries.
Additionally, there is a digital divide, which is much more expansive in small towns and rural. Prolonged isolation and exponential rise in internet usage due to pandemic protocols could result in feelings of loneliness due to reduced peer support, and limitation to virtual means is a significant cause of concern.

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@malikammar12345, @sarahkhenry, @areff2000, @adanvers, @Esther_Colwell, @staceyo, I believe you advised on our Gender Data Gap Prize Design in the past. I wonder if you have thoughts on this idea for an XPRIZE, which is about measuring mental health?

Specifically, we have questions about how to judge and test teams competing in such a prize. Here is our draft version of criteria:

  • Develop objective metrics of mental health.

How to assess that?

  • Contextualize metrics to the user, taking into account cultural, environmental, and social factors as well as diet and medical history.
  • Measure the impact of lifestyle changes on the user’s mental well-being over time.

Including social engagement? We know social isolation and loneliness contribute to anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.

  • Prove the metrics’ accuracy by comparing against user self-assessments.

May be a little odd, since self-assessments are imperfect and that’s why we need this prize. But how else could teams prove the metrics they develop are accurate?

  • Reduce demand for mental healthcare in the area where the solution is deployed.

Is this a fair metric? Is it realizable? Could we easily get such data?

We’re considering broadening this prize and measuring happiness instead of mental health.

Much of the same logic applies: we don’t have objective criteria of what makes people happy, current methodology relies on self-reporting, if people understood happiness better they could take pro-active action to improve their emotional and mental well-being.

@akb, @mhackett, @arshimehboob, what is your opinion of such a change?

@vabot, a happiness focus may be of interest to you as well. Please feel free to join the discussion and let us know what you think!

Thank you @NickOttens for the tag.

UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, reported Finland as the most happiest nation in the world, where the suicide mortality is above the EU average and among the five highest in the EU27 according to Eurostat.


Mental health problems and substance abuse are among the most serious threats to public health in Finland. In Finland, which has the highest estimated incidence of mental disorders in the EU, close to 1 in 5 are affected. Mental illness has a high economic cost–the cost of treatment, social security programmes, lower employment and lost productivity add up to a total average of 4% of GDP in EU countries. In Finland, it is higher still: an estimated 5.3% of GDP in 2016.
Therefore, in my perspective happiness is very unlikely can be associate with mental health.
Mental health trends differ across demographic groups, seasonal trends have effects on GHQ scores. In other words, it can be said that people who are happy have less chance to prone to the depression, anxiety or stress. Mental health and happiness cannot exist on the same side of a binary.

As mentioned above it can be difficult to objectively quantify “happiness” because it often relies on self-assessing questionnaires; but it is, of course, a worthy goal to improve happiness / well-being. Happiness is one positive attribute that arises as a result of good mental health (and general health and a good lifestyle, etc.). So it sounds reasonable to measure all attributes of mental health including happiness.

The more objective data we can derive on mental health the better. For example, a person with severe mental health problems might be incapable of providing an accurate assessment of their happiness; similarly for someone on drugs (or in the future, perhaps, a Happy Chip).

Happiness sounds very ‘nebulous’ and I’m not sure what you are hoping to achieve by measuring it.

Happiness won’t inform government/healthcare planning or policy.

Unsure how ‘understanding happiness’ could help people ‘take pro-active action to improve their emotional and mental wellbeing’. People who are unwell know other people are happy. Not sure how that helps.

You seem to be looking for a solution without defining the problem.

Thank you for the feedback, @arshimehboob, @akb, and @mhackett! It sounds like it may be wiser to stick with the original idea of measuring mental health.

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Thanks Nick.

My work on measuring #value, which drives consumption, is likely to relate to mental health, through its Impact and connection to emotion.

By measuring emotion, we can sense change in mental health. Hence diarising anxiety, both intensity and positive or negative direction.

I see emotion as a vector; strong/weak and positive or negative. I call this attitude and it has a target value object.

So self-report of emotion is part of the answer, and behaviour as a triangulating data point especially where the behaviour is a coping strategy.

Community and connecting is both a moderator of emotion and a value-seeking strategy. There is much work to be done in this space though progress may be measured in decades.

Look forward to tracking progress in this space.

My data at: https://figshare.com/authors/Richard_Ferrers/401493

My thesis on value at:
Ferrers, Richard (2018): A consumer value theory of innovation in 3G mobile phones: a grounded theory approach. figshare. Dataset. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.680002

My pamphlet on value at:
Ferrers, Richard (2018): The Little Book of Value: How Innovation Creates Value for Consumers - Volume 1. figshare. Journal contribution. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7376879.v3

R

Here’s an update from this prize sketch:

The challenge we’re trying to address is not just making mental healthcare more affordable; it’s better allocating scarce resources by:

  • Early diagnosis and prevention of mental disorders, which requires normalizing mental health;
  • Matching those who do need care with the right therapists;
  • Improving the efficacy of treatment; and possibly
  • Making reimbursement more objective and fair.

The breakthrough is: What if we could quantify mental health, enabling users to take proactive action to improve their emotional and mental well-being, and either guide them to the right care or preempt therapy altogether?

The winning team would:

  • Develop objective metrics of mental health.
  • Built a tool that:
    • Empowers users to improve their mental well-being, and enhance resilience to mental disorders/substance abuse.
    • Matches users to the right intervention, to the right provider, at the right time.

I agree happiness is difficult to measure, is a nebulous concept, and relies on the subjective input of the individual involved. This is why it is challenging and fits well with XPRIZE endeavours. It challenges us to improve our research involving the individual themselves, their emotions and feelings rather than omit this aspect of being human, an aspect too often omitted in our search for ‘objective’ science and consequently leading to important pitfalls in that science.

Here’s the latest version of this prize sketch:

The grand challenge is that nearly 1 billion people live with a mental disorder, but most are untreated. Substance abuse and suicide are responsible for one in five deaths worldwide. And still we don’t even have a thorough understanding of what mental health is. Diagnosis of mental illness relies heavily on self-assessments. Treatment is trial-and-error. The impact of interventions is hard to measure.

What if we could quantify mental health, enabling users to take proactive action to improve their emotional and mental well-being, and either guide them to the right care or even preempt the need for therapy?

Teams competing in this prize would have to:

  • Develop objective metrics of mental health.
  • Build a tool that:
    • Empowers users to improve their mental well-being.
    • Matches users to the right intervention, to the right provider, at the right time.

The metrics must be a combination of:

  • Reliable, quantifiable biomarkers.
  • Neural or physiological correlates of mental health.
  • Digital phenotypes.

We could either test the metrics retrospectively, using existing datasets, or we could use data from volunteers. Either would be anonymized.

The user tool would be judged according to:

  • Contextualization of metrics to the user, taking into account cultural, environmental, and social factors as well as lifestyle and medical history.
  • Functionality:
    • Provides early screening and triage of mental disorders.
    • Gives the user actionable insights to improve their mental health.
  • User engagement: Measures the impact of behavior and lifestyle changes on the user’s mental well-being over time.
  • Privacy: HIPAA and GDPR compliance.
  • Data security.
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There are various scales on which currently the mental health is being quantified. A 360-degree approach is required for measuring mental health

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I think that it should be broadened to include the decay in mental health which occurs in the elderly and having other early or new metrics here would be helpful. This is highly relevant as a spectrum of neurological mental diseases including Alzheimer’s , Parkinson’s and other dementias exert a huge social toll ( 5 th leading cause of death in US)

I think that there should be though given to say current tools and how new ones would add value including being:
-more accurate
-faster
-easier
-more impactful

While I would very much like to maximize happiness, this seems to diffuse and I worry that without adequately framing the problem one will not be able to achieve a solution.

I support having a very clear goal with very tangible metrics of success.

Here’s the final version of the prize sketch, which will be pitched to XPRIZE benefactors on the weekend of Nov 12-14. Thank you all for your input here! We hope this will be selected for funding and full design.

The global challenge

Nearly 1 billion people live with a mental disorder. Most are untreated. 4 in 10 patients with a severe psychiatric disorder are misdiagnosed. Substance abuse and suicide are responsible for one in five deaths worldwide. And still we don’t have a thorough understanding of what mental health is. Diagnosis of mental illness relies heavily on self-assessments. Treatment, from counseling to medication, often rely on trial-and-error methods. The impact of interventions is hard to measure.

There is an urgent need to…

What if we could quantify mental health, enable users to take proactive action to improve their emotional and mental well-being, and either guide them to the right care or even preempt the need for therapy?

Imagine a world in which…

Everyone is able to understand their mental health. Caring for one’s mental health is as natural as caring for one’s physical health. Globally accepted standards have made therapy more personalized and more precise. Early screening and timely intervention have eased the burden on the mental health system. Funding and reimbursement can be tied to quantifiable health outcomes.

Core problems
(i.e. the market or systemic failures blocking a solution)

Efforts are being made to improve the diagnosis of mental illness. There is a growing market of apps and wearable devices that can monitor (physical) indicators of emotional and mental well-being. $2.4B was invested in digital behavioral health technology in 2020. $1.3B was invested in mental-health tech in Q2 of 2021 alone, up from $100M as recently as 2018.

Because mental health issues remain stigmatized in many parts of the world, innovations tend to either rely on self-reporting or focus on the most prevalent conditions, such as addiction and insomnia. No technology currently on the market gives users a full and objective picture of their mental health, nor allows them to track their mental health over time.

The winning team will…

  • Develop objective metrics of mental health.
  • Build a tool that:
    • Empowers users to improve their mental well-being.
    • Matches users to the right intervention, to the right provider, at the right time.

Prize purse

$25M

Timeline

3 years:

  • 2 years for metric development (with separate judging).
  • 1 year to build a prototype user tool.

Testing and judging

Metrics:

  • Must be a combination of:
    • Reliable, quantifiable biomarkers.
    • Digital phenotypes.
    • Neural or physiological correlates of mental health.
    • Non-medical factors.
  • Test options:
    • Retrospective study, using existing datasets.
    • Data from volunteers.

User tool:

  • Contextualization of metrics to the user, taking into account cultural, environmental, and social factors as well as lifestyle and medical history.
  • Functionality:
    • Gives the user actionable insights to improve their mental health.
    • Provides early screening and triage of mental disorders.
  • User engagement: Measures the impact of (recommended) behavior and lifestyle changes on the user’s mental health over time.
  • Privacy: HIPAA and GDPR compliance.
  • Data security.