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California Tests a Digital 'Fire Alarm' for Mental Distress

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Skyy Brewer

Skyy Brewer of Manhattan Beach, Calif. uses the Mindstrong app to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Credit: Jenna Schoenefeld / The New York Times

Mindstrong, a Silicon Valley-based venture co-founded by a former director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, is developing an early-warning system that would flag smartphone users when an emotional crisis seemed imminent.

For the past year, California state and county mental health officials, along with patient representatives, have met regularly to test smartphone apps for people receiving care through the state's public mental health system. Officials from 13 counties and two cities are involved in the project, and the apps are already available to the public.

Mindstrong digitally installs an alternate keyboard on users' smartphone, and monitors their moment-to-moment screen activity. If several metrics begin to stray wildly from their daily averages, the app triggers a message to the user.

From The New York Times
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