Development Of Smartwatch Device To Address Mental Health Crisis In Young People By Researchers

In response to the growing mental health crisis among teenagers, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and Analog Devices, Inc (ADI) have partnered to develop a wearable smartwatch device to detect suicidality and depression. Among children and adolescents aged 10 to 17, suicide is the second-leading cause of death, with rates rising from 6.8 per 100,000 in 2007 to 10.7 per 100,000 in 2018. Furthermore, 18.8 percent of high school students in the US have reported thoughts related to suicide. The demand for mental healthcare often exceeds the number of mental health beds available, forcing patients to wait in the emergency department for days.

A previous study, led by Sheridan, found a correlation between heart rate variability (HRV) and suicidality in teens. To address this, Sheridan collaborated with ADI, a company offering smartwatch technology, to collect advanced physiologic data on patients. The ADI wrist-worn device contains an embedded sensor that can calculate HRV in real-time, providing precise measurements and raw data that can be used to develop advanced analytics methods. This technology has the potential to aid in the early detection of suicidality and depression, thus improving access to mental healthcare.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are planning to conduct a study that will collect smartwatch data from adolescents with acute suicidality. The adolescents and their parents will be invited to participate in the study, where they will record any stressful behaviors in diaries and take validated suicidality measures daily. Follow-up care will be provided after the hospital stay. The purpose of the study is to use the data to create a biometric signal that can be used to develop machine-learning algorithms to detect suicidality. The long-term goal is to create a smartwatch-based detector that can be used to monitor adolescents with depression and suicidality.

According to researcher Sheridan, this technology can help parents keep track of their child’s mental state and provide them with a way to intervene. Smartwatches were chosen as the device of choice due to their widespread use and the possibility of connecting them to parents or other loved ones who can then be alerted if there is cause for concern.