The state is teaming up with Silicon Valley to make mental health services more available. Promises abound, and so do potential problems.
Last winter, several dozen people who were struggling with suicidal urges and bouts of intense emotion opened their lives to a company called Mindstrong, in what has become a closely watched experiment in Silicon Valley.
Mindstrong, a venture co-founded by a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, promised something that no drug or talk therapy can provide: an early-warning system that would flag the user when an emotional crisis seemed imminent — a personal, digital “fire alarm.”
For the past year, California state and county mental health officials, along with patient representatives, have met regularly with Mindstrong and another company, 7 Cups, 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, and the apps are already available to the public.
The new users, most of whom have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, receive treatment through the Los Angeles County mental health network, and were among the first test subjects in this collaboration. They allowed Mindstrong to digitally install an alternate keyboard on their smartphones, embedded in the app, and to monitor their moment-to-moment screen activity.
READ THE ARTICLE