Technologies and mental health

Digital Civics projects exploring technologies and mental health were showcased at a student-led mental health conference in Newcastle.

The fourth annual Mind the Gap Conference was organised by Nataly Birbeck, a Digital Civics doctoral researcher and included workshops, panel discussions and live music performances. There were also stalls showcasing local organisations working in the area of mental health, such as charities, meditation providers, and LaunchSpot.

The conference offered an opportunity to discuss and explore many different aspects of mental health. LaunchSpot’s opening competition, Create4Dementia, invites the public to submit ideas for technology they believe could help people living with a diagnosis of dementia. These ideas, having been collaboratively refined by the community, have now been judged by experts in technology and dementia and three ideas have been shortlisted for development. Small businesses and individual developers can now bid for a work contract worth £20,000 to make the winning idea a reality.

People attending the conference were interested to find out more about the ideas and the collaborative design process. Future competitions using the LaunchSpot platform could focus on other mental health issues such as self-harm and eating disorders.

Kellie Morrissey, a researcher involved with LaunchSpot, also ran a workshop session with Jayne Wallace exploring non-verbal communication with people with dementia. Workshop participants made playlists to investigate how music could empower people with dementia, and how fabrics and different textiles could be used to create engaging objects.

Other sessions focussed on subjects such as poetry, peer support and comedy relating to mental health, while discussion panels held throughout the day explored the particular issues around mental health for students, men, people with disabilities and those who are part of the LGBT+ and BAME communities or who belong to a faith group.

Students, researchers, clinicians and members of the local community all took part in the conference, which encouraged discussion about mental health issues. Platforms such as LaunchSpot suggest ways in which digital technologies can intersect with mental health and how technologies developed by the community could shape the way we think and talk about mental health in the future.


For more information please contact Nataly Birbeck.


Author: Mark Sleightholm

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