The current president of the National Institute for Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel, is a figure anybody with an ear in the mental health world should be familiar with. People in the tech sector may be a little less acquainted with him. Next week, he plans to change that. Insel will become the new head of Alphabet’s Google Life Sciences, a division dedicated to leveraging tech and Google’s incredible power to advance the field of life science, as well as providing technical applications on a consumer level.
During his thirteen-year tenure at the Institute, Dr. Insel was involved in research for the most severe and acute mental disorders. Although the field of mental health care took major strides with his oversight, he feels he failed to some extent in reducing the suicide rate. It would seem that he has found merit in technology that traditional methods could never provide.
Dr. Insel imagines technology helping people with mental illnesses in much the same way it helps people with physical diseases, those with sensory issues, amputees and other such cases. He mentioned things such as online counseling with a digital avatar to provide instant help for those struggling with mental unrest, as well as an intriguing concept; a wearable that can tell your mood.
The intrepid doctor says that such a device is far from impossible using a number of sensors and relevant user-administered tests. He claims the wearable would provide objective measures of behavior, paired with things like vital signs and temperature, to accurately gauge a user’s current mood. Such a wearable would be immensely helpful for a large spectrum of people and occasions, from mental health patients to business meetings, but the wearable itself isn’t what you should really be excited about. Rather, it’s the incredible concept it presents.
The good doctor is basically, at this point, suggesting that he wants to create a future where technology as ubiquitous and common as a simple wearable can help keep an individual’s mental health stable, help others to help them when they need it and to overhaul communication among users to a more organic and meaningful level. Incredible advances in technology such as biometrics and tech that responds to brain waves are only the beginning, if Dr. Insel is to be believed.