Dr Ayesha Al Basti with a visitor at 'Mindspire' event at Expo-1644841205236
Dr Ayesha Al Basti (L) from the DHA with a visitor at the 'Mindspire' event at Expo 2020 Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on Monday announced the highlights of an upcoming mental heath app called ‘Mindspire’ at the ‘UAE Innovates’ event at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The app, which is currently in the final phases of development, has been created by students from the American University of Sharjah. The app won the first price at DHA’s Health Hackathon in 2019. Since then, students have been working with the team at DHA to enhance the features of the app to help diagnose and treat patients with depression.

The app aims to help individuals suffering from depression or those who would like a preliminary screening, and aids in alleviating their symptoms, with a focus on anonymity and minimal user intervention.

How it works

The app seeks to conduct a non-intrusive analysis continuously by collecting and consolidating the data readily available on the user’s smartphone, such as general phone usage, specific application usage (in terms of frequency, duration and active times of the day), typing speed, emoji usage and spell-checks. The text, calls, social media presence information is not monitored so as not to invade their privacy.

Next, the only user inputs required are the daily logging of their thoughts and feelings into the journal available on the app (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) through voice notes and they need to indicate their general mood by using a colour wheel (Ekman’s Atlas of Emotion) or with a series of Socratic questioning (CBT recommended method).

Machine learning algorithms are then used to detect the tone and associate a mood with journal entries as well as reveal repetitive thinking patterns. This information in conjunction with the background analysis can be used to find an individual’s biorhythms, identify periods of declining mental health, recognise times of generally more productive behaviour and provide personalised recommendations based on the severity of their condition.

Updates incorporated

Dr Ayesha Al Basti, a family medicine consultant and vice-chairman of the Mental Health Committee at the DHA’s primary health care sector, said the app has undergone several updates since the concept was developed. Using voice notes to put in the daily inputs and voice tonality recognition are some of the latest updates.

She highlighted that DHA is keen to use smart technologies to further improve patient care as well as empower patients’ to take better care of themselves through the use of daily smart monitoring and technology.

Movies and workouts

She added that people with milder cases of depression will be encouraged to undertake therapy sessions and they will receive recommendations like light-hearted movies, comedy shows, uplifting music and workout routines.

Those on the higher spectrum will be directly guided to contact a professional and book an appointment with a specialist doctor. Dr Basti said the team was currently developing care pathways to ensure every patient gets the right treatment, support and care and emphasised that mental health and wellbeing was of vital importance for every individual. She reiterated that such apps help provide much-needed support to patients suffering from depression while ensuring confidentiality and support.