Mental illnesses have become one of the biggest medical challenges of the 21st century. According to the World Health Organization, around 450 million people globally are affected by mental illness.

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SwissCognitiveBut two-thirds of people with a known mental condition, such as anxiety, depression and co-occurring disorders, fail to seek help from medical professionals. This can be due to a number of factors, including stigma and discrimination.

London-based digital health and artificial intelligence company BioBeats is on a mission to change the perception of mental health globally by using data. It’s developed a wearable device, an app and machine learning system to collect data and monitor users’ level of stress, before predicting when stress could be a cause of a more serious or physical health condition.

“While there has been an increase in mental health awareness in the past few years, the approach remains widely reactive,” says Dr David Plans, founder of BioBeats. “However, preventative action can avert the onset of mental and physical illnesses, as well as manage existing conditions before they escalate into something more severe”

Plans says his company is working to allow for a radically different approach to tackling stress and mental health challenges, putting the individual back in control. He continues: “We work with businesses who are committed to their workforce and who want to take a preventative approach to mental health and stress management. 

“While the information we collect is completely private to each user, companies are able to learn through aggregated and anonymized data, to make better decisions around HR initiatives, employee wellbeing and culture.”

Effective treatments

The BioBase app provides users with real-time data on their personal wellbeing, allowing them to keep track of their mental and physical wellbeing. “With the help of a wearable, we are able to collect passive data, such as sleep, activity and heart rate variability (HRV),” says Plans. “When combined with in-app mood-tracking, deep breathing exercises and executive function tests BioBase provides a comprehensive overview of one’s mental and physical wellbeing.

As well as helping users to identify potential mental health problems, the software also helps treat them. Plans explains: “The app is home to personalized wellbeing courses that help individuals to address and optimize their main areas of concern while identifying positive habits to put into practice. As BioBase learns more about each user, it can provide personalized insights on sleep, activity and body stress as well as relevant tips to improve each area.”

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For Plans, artificial intelligence is at the heart of his business. He says: “AI and machine learning applied to psychological, physiological and neurological data can be a powerful and positive disruptor in our collective approach to managing mental health. […]

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