Can data shape the future of mental health support?

By Rich McEachran - 07 Sep 2016

Plexus is aiming to achieve just this. Built by the digital studio M/A, with funding from the Open Data Institute, the knowledge base is being used to design resources for people with mental health conditions, their families, and even employers, to find support available in local areas, seek advice on how best to cope with returning to work after a period off and understand employee rights and employer responsibilities.

Plexus has pooled data from a couple of dozen organisations including NHS Choices, Department for Work and Pensions, the Office for National Statistics and Citizens Advice. In some cases the information has been pulled from APIs; in other instances it has been scraped using web data platform import.io.

The first tool Plexus developed is a chatbot called Grace, which is currently in beta testing. It enables users to record thoughts and feelings anonymously, receive feedback in the form of a newsletter and log in to an online dashboard to see a more detailed analysis, including whether there are any patterns in mood emerging over a period of time. The tool also offers guidance from the various governmental and charity websites under easy-to-navigate sections, such as legal rights and preparing for work.

“Through machine learning, Grace will intuitively know when our users are mostly likely to want to speak with us, be able to see the positive and negative nature of the user’s reply, and adapt the questions to encourage more positive responses,” explains Martin Vowles, creative director and co-founder of M/A. “We’re hoping this approach will allow us to offer a unique tool to each user which helps them understand and develop their mental wellbeing.”

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