Designing an Open-source Expert System for Mental Health: A Research and Development Initiative (old template)

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About This Project

This project combines research and technology to develop an open-source expert system for mental health monitoring in high-stress jobs. We will survey existing systems, gather input from users and coders, and integrate the best practices into our design. The system will track changes in communication and routine, raising mental health awareness and providing biofeedback. This innovative tool aims to promote overall wellness, productivity, and job satisfaction in demanding work environments.

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What is the context of this research?

Although we've seen advances in mental health care, there remains a noticeable gap in the provision of accessible, efficient, and context-specific support in these high-stress environments. This project, building upon the groundwork laid by an ethnographic study on expert systems applied to mental health in academia funded by the EU COST action CA19117 - Researcher Mental Health, seeks to address this deficiency. We are learning to leverage the potential of artificial intelligence in mental health care to provide personalized, data-driven support to individuals facing increased pressure and concerns.


What is the significance of this project?

Our aim is to design a comprehensive, open-source platform offering a proactive approach to well-being management. Tailored for high-demand scenarios, it will integrate the best features of existing systems and incorporate cutting-edge strategies. Our focus is on capturing and analyzing changes in communication patterns, interactions, routines, and bio-metrics, offering valuable mental health insights.

This tool will be not just a support system but also a powerful research instrument. It serves as a collaboration platform for researchers and developers, contributing to continuous evolution and improvement. Its open-source nature will foster innovation and accessibility, while its data capabilities provide unique insights into mental health in high-demand professions.

What are the goals of the project?

  1. To Develop an Sustainable Platform: Our primary goal is to create a platform that integrates advanced expert systems to provide proactive mental health support, offering a comprehensive approach to mental health management.

  2. To Facilitate Research and Collaboration: By making the platform open-source, we intend to foster collaboration among researchers, developers, and mental health professionals worldwide, serving as an instrument for continuous learning, improvement, and innovation.

  3. To Increase Accessibility and Affordability: Our goal is to provide a free, accessible tool for mental health support that can help break down barriers often associated with mental health care. By being open-source, the platform ensures that mental health support becomes more affordable and accessible to all.

Budget

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  1. To gain meaningful insights from users and coders, we ensure ethical research practices by compensating participants. This approach ensures quality data for effective system design.

  2. A significant portion of our budget is dedicated to coding, testing and refining the system based on user feedback. This budget allocation ensures that we deliver a functional, user-friendly tool with quality development and annotated source code.

  3. A secure, robust database is essential for storing and analysing data. This budget allocation ensures the functionality of our system and protects users.
  4. Analysing data from our research and system usage is key to refining the system. This budget item supports comprehensive data review for continuous improvement.
  5. This item ensures that our project reaches its intended audience. We aim to maximise the impact and sustainability of the system through increased visibility and community engagement, essential to ensure future sustainability and improvements.


Project Timeline

Spanning one and a half years, the project begins with six months for a literature review, interviews, and setting up the initial framework. Four months follow for prototype development and further data collection. The subsequent four months will see intensive system testing and user-driven refinement. The final includes additional enhancements and proactive community engagement. Post-launch, we will maintain active involvement to support the platform's evolution based on ongoing user feedback.

Mar 01, 2024

Interviews and literature review

Jun 01, 2024

Initial framework development

Sep 01, 2024

Prototype development and testing

Dec 01, 2024

User-driven refinement and participatory research support

Feb 01, 2025

Final refinement and community engagement in launch readiness check-up

Meet the Team

Enric Garcia Torrents
Enric Garcia Torrents
Assistant professor, doctoral researcher

Affiliates

Medical Anthropology Research Centre‚Äč, Universitat Rovira i Virgili Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education
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Team Bio

We are a mixed-race couple: my wife is a 33 years old Han Chinese, I am a 41 years old Mediterranean. We met in Shanghai about ten years ago while I was undertaking research on international arbitration for CodeX, the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, and she head-hunted C-level executives for big tech corporations. We now live in Barcelona, Spain, with our kids: 7 and 5 years old at the moment of launching this campaign.

Enric Garcia Torrents

Enric is a dedicated physician-scientist in training and a doctoral researcher at the Medical Anthropology Research Center at University Rovira i Virgili in Spain. His work is primarily focused on the intersection of social and health sciences. His current project, funded until October 2026, aims to explore ways to eliminate coercion in mental health settings.

Enric has a diverse research background, having worked with institutions like Stanford Law School, the University of Arizona, and The Graduate Institute Geneva. His research has spanned from social networks analysis to the study of cognitive biases in decision-making processes in international disputes. He has also explored the potential genetic basis of schizophrenia and the effects of the neuritin gene on cortical thickness.

Academically, Enric engaged in a dual degree in neuroscience and smart systems from Keele University, holds a degree in evolutionary anthropology from University Rovira i Virgili and Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, and a Master's degree in biological anthropology from the Universitat de Barcelona and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He also holds postgraduate degrees in collective mental health and dialogical practices.

In addition to his academic and research roles, Enric has significant experience as a working group member of EU COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) science and cooperation actions. He has contributed to the ReMO (Researcher Mental Health) and FOSTREN (Fostering the Reduction of Coercion in Mental Health) initiatives. The ReMO initiative focuses on the mental health of researchers, a critical but often overlooked aspect of the research ecosystem. The FOSTREN initiative, on the other hand, aligns with Enric's current project, aiming to reduce coercion in mental health settings. His involvement in these initiatives demonstrates his commitment to improving mental health both within and outside the research community.


Lab Notes

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Additional Information

Contribution to Mental Health Discourse: This project doesn't just aim to provide a tool for individuals; it also seeks to contribute to the wider discourse on mental health, particularly in high-demand sectors. The data collected through our platform will be anonymized and analyzed to gain unique insights into mental health patterns and challenges among users. These insights can help inform mental health policies, research, and interventions, providing a clearer picture of the realities faced by individuals in high-stress environments. It is our belief that our project will not only address immediate mental health concerns but also contribute to broader societal understanding and changes.

User Engagement: User engagement is a key focus for our platform. We believe that an interactive, user-friendly platform can significantly improve the overall experience and effectiveness of mental health support tools. Therefore, the platform will feature intuitive navigation and interaction design, ensuring it can be easily used by individuals regardless of their tech proficiency. Moreover, we will incorporate mechanisms for feedback and suggestions from users, which will play a crucial role in the iterative refinement of the platform. This approach ensures that we are always meeting the needs of our users and responding to their experiences, making our platform not just a tool, but a collaborative project between developers, researchers, and users. User Data Ownership, Privacy, and Security: Given the significant issues in the mental health software landscape, our platform is fundamentally committed to data privacy, ownership, and security. Research from the Mozilla Foundation has revealed deeply concerning practices within the industry, including vague privacy policies, data sharing with third parties, collection of sensitive information like chat transcripts, and laughably weak security measures (Mozilla Foundation, 2023).

In stark contrast, we're adopting a privacy-first and user-centric design approach for our software. We will put users in full control of their data, empowering them to grant or withdraw permissions for third-party research access at any time with a clear and simple interface. Security isn't an afterthought in our software development process. We will implement end-to-end encryption, enforce robust password policies, provide regular security updates, and devise a systematic approach to managing potential security vulnerabilities. Transparency is another cornerstone of our platform. Our users will be clearly informed about how their data is used and any changes to our data policies, unlike some apps with opaque practices. Particular attention will be paid to protecting vulnerable users, such as young people who are often targeted by these apps. Their data will not be used for targeted advertising or marketing.

We are embarking on this project with the goal of creating a secure, transparent, and user-friendly mental health software platform. Users can confidently engage with our tool, knowing their data is secure, private, and entirely under their control. By confronting these industry issues head-on, we are striving to set a new standard in mental health software.

References:
Mozilla Foundation. (2023). Privacy not included: Mental health apps. Retrieved from https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/privacynotincluded/categories/mental-health-apps/


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