EPSRC - NIHR HTC Partnership Award: Social Computing And Mental Health Research Network

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Engineering and Environment

Abstract

The current extent of ill mental health is estimated to cost the UK economy £105 billion per year in healthcare expenditure and lost revenue. Addressing mental health is therefore a clearly articulated priority for government. The broad use of ICT services, social media and smartphone applications has an increasingly important role to play in the delivery of clinical mental health services and in supporting societal mental health and wellbeing more generally. Indeed, for large sections of the population, and younger people in particular, the use of Social Computing technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is already informally entwined with every facet of everyday life including health and wellbeing. The expectation by the healthcare community, and by commercial software developers, therefore is that digital mobile and social technology can provide compelling, scalable and convenient access to information, social and peer support, as well as therapy and shared self-monitoring tools and services. However, there are a numerous difficult challenges associated with the design, deployment, use and evaluation of such technology in mental health settings which must be solved using multidisciplinary, rigorous and scientific methods. The research field of Social Computing broadly focusses on the user-centred design, implementation, use, and evaluation of technologies that consider social context in an increasingly digitally-connected society. The UK's Social Computing research community therefore has a wealth of experience and expertise that is relevant to, but not typically directed at, mental health services and systems. This network will address issues of support, coordination and collaboration in this context and bring together two communities: (i) engineering and physical sciences (EPS) researchers under the broad, and inclusive, banner of Social Computing covering sub-fields of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), ubiquitous and mobile computing, and web scienc (ii) clinical scientists, healthcare professionals, commercial partners, charities, user groups and patients who are concerned with mental health and wellbeing. The network will work closely with the NIHR MindTech Healthcare Technology Co-operative (HTC) centre to engage in a range of coordinated scientific, technological, management and clinical activities to realise its overarching aim of pump-priming future UK capacity to deliver internationally-leading research at the boundaries between social computing and mental healthcare.

Planned Impact

Mental ill health leads to considerable personal, societal and economic costs, and is an urgent healthcare priority. The UK government's "No health without mental health" strategy document clearly sets out a digital agenda for mainstream, state-funded, mental healthcare, whilst the NHS strategic health authorities have recently funded a mapping exercise to gather requirements in this area. Despite this activity, very little UK ICT research is currently conducted, nor supported by EPSRC, that directly addresses issues of mental health and wellbeing. This gap in UK research activity is problematic; there is serious risk that the UK's EPS research base, and the expertise of its individual researchers, will be under-utilised in the design, development and evaluation of e-Mental Health services going forward. The core rationale for this proposed network is that the UK EPS research community has, in fact, a wealth of experience and expertise that is immediately relevant to, but not currently directed at, the need for the rigorous cross-disciplinary design, development and evaluation of e-Mental Health services and systems. The primary impact of the Network therefore is encompassed in increasing the capacity and readiness of the UK research community to contribute towards the delivery of scientifically-grounded e-Mental Health services and systems, and to initiate a number of pump-priming projects and funding applications in this area. Any increased uptake and adherence with well-designed and appropriately validated e-Mental Health services has the potential to deliver substantial societal impact; existing clinical treatments for mental health are difficult to scale and often suffer from poor take-up due to perceived stigma of mental health conditions. Mental ill health in younger people in particular frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated; the fact that younger people in particular also demonstrate a greater and greater inclination to utilise digital mobile and social systems for health is a strong indicator that e-Mental Health services and systems should be urgently designed for them and the larger population. Addressing mental ill health also has economic benefit; it has been suggested that the current extent of ill mental health costs the UK economy £105 billion per year in both healthcare and lost revenue due, for instance, to absence from the workplace; the recent Prince's Trust study highlighted a very urgent need to address mental health in unemployed younger people. There is willingness by the ICT commercial sector to engage with opportunities to deliver mobile and web-based services that aim to support wellbeing and hence there is opportunity to deliver further economic impact through this sector; indeed there is good evidence that computerised, and web-based, versions of validated therapies such as CBT are known to have positive clinical outcomes but are rarely used in practice - suggesting that user-centred design issues remain fundamentally unsolved in existing systems. The Network grant also has substantial inbuilt capacity to deliver impact around People; activities supporting early careers researchers and doctoral students will be well-resourced and prominent. Opportunities will be made available for networking, placements and visits and knowledge transfer and exchange. Furthermore, the Network will put great emphasis on users and people-centred design in its scientific approaches, for instance through inviting end users and patient groups to workshop events.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/M000206/1 30/06/2014 31/10/2015 £134,706
EP/M000206/2 Transfer EP/M000206/1 01/11/2015 31/12/2016 £92,717
 
Description This was a small network project designed to increase awareness of opportunities for social computing and HCI researchers, and tech developers, to apply their work to mental health issues. The project has held a range of networking events and activities that are detailed in the submission, including workshops, hackathons, joint conferences, panels and app commissioning competitions that have engaged a wide range of the intended stakeholders around mental issues including, but limited to, dementia care, eating disorders and body image, self-harm and trauma informed health care.
Exploitation Route We will continue to monitor the outcomes of individual workshops, events and initiatives such as LaunchSpot (above).
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare

URL https://create4dementia.launchspot.co.uk/
 
Description We developed Launchspot, a civic platform organised around thematic campaigns to facilitate the commissioning, open tendering and development of technologies by a community of stakeholders. Working with Sunderland Software City, we ran a three- month campaign that called on the public to submit ideas for technologies to improve the experiences of those affected by dementia (see https://create4dementia.launchspot.co.uk/). The multi-stage process involved inspiration, design, judging and tendering phases. The process culminated in three shortlisted ideas, one of which - Family Connections - was chosen for development and the successful tendering team awarded a cash prize to create the application. We will post further updates when we have them.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Eating Disorders, Social Media & Digital Technology Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact It is estimated that nearly three quarters of a million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder (ED). The effects of EDs can also be dramatic; all EDs have been shown to greatly affect quality of life for the person involved, and those around them, and frequently have very serious impact on a person's physical health. Anorexia nervosa (AN), for instance, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, and it is estimated that less than 50% of people with AN recover completely from their illness.

For large sections of the population, and younger people in particular, the use of interactive apps, social media and online services are already entwined with every part of everyday life - including health and wellbeing. It is thought social media, for instance, play a major part in how people seek information about EDs and how they seek to communicate with others about them. However, EDs are a multifaceted problem, and their relationship with digital and social media is equally intricate.
The Eating Disorders, Social Media and Digital Technology Workshop aimed to better our understandings of how digital technology and social media impacts - both positively and otherwise - on EDs and to generate ideas for new research agendas and directions in this area. The workshop was organised by the EPSRC funded "Social Computing And Mental Health Research Network" (see 1in4.tech for details) and was held at the Think Tank, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK on Monday 7th December 2015.

Around 30 people attended the workshop with participants from research and academia (including from EU and the USA), patient groups and charities. The program will featured a number of invited international speakers, including Anna Lavis (University of Birmingham), Munmun de Choudhury (Georgia Tech), Beth Bell (York St. John University) and Wyke Stommel (Radboud University) and Ashleigh Ponder (#BalancedNotClean).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://eating-disorders.technology/
 
Description First Workshop on Alcohol, Drinking Cultures, Wellbeing and Social Media (Gateshead, 27 June 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This workshop explored the role of HCI research as applied to alcohol, drinking cultures and wellbeing. The goal was to discuss relevant, and current, cross-disciplinary thinking, to explore the current roles of interactive technology, and ultimately to work collaboratively to outline a roadmap for research around the future role of HCI research in this context. The workshop will aim to identify the digital design spaces that might enable HCI researchers to explore themes including (but not limited to) alcohol and mental health and wellbeing, women's health, social and cultural perspectives on drinking, futures of the pub, and technologies for alcohol production and marketing. The workshop agenda will consolidate appropriate methods and methodology for designing interventions within health and wellbeing, personal and public/social spaces, and varied socio-cultural contexts. Twenty researchers attended and the output is a draft position paper for e.g. CHI/DIS outlining research opportunities in this area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Joint Emoticon, Digital Personhood and Mental Health event (Sheffield, 16-17 June 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact We held a joint networking event primarily for postgrad students funded by the ESRC 'Emoticon' (Empathy and trust in communicating online), EPSRC 'Digital Personhood', and EPSRC Social Computing & Mental Health networks. It was attended by around 50 people - a mix of researchers from the networks, representatives from the research councils and external PhD students interested in the cross over across the three areas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description NHS-led event on trauma informed mental healthcare (Newcastle, Dec 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop explored the potential use of digital media and interactive technology in supporting and sustaining Trauma Informed Health Care. The aim was to co-produce a framework that outlines how digital technologies could play a role in promoting positive experiences for staff and service users around the issue of trauma and abuse histories. Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, have commissioned a set of short videos to explain specific aspects of Trauma Informed Care. These were used by staff and service users to facilitate greater understanding of trauma and how to manage its impact. The conceptual designs for the videos, and how to make best use of them, will provided a focus for the workshop discussions. The agenda consolidated appropriate methods and methodology for designing technology- enabled scenario narratives by way of prototyping and rehearsing possible futures in the present. The workshop was led Dr Angela Kennedy from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS foundation Trust, and Prof Shaun Lawson at Northumbria University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Networking event at ICT2015, Lisbon 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This Network Session was intended to act as a galvanising 'call to arms' for EU ICT researchers to engage with applied issues of mental health and wellbeing and to forge new working partnerships with a view to construction of new programmes, projects and proposals. The session was organised by Shaun Lawson (University of Lincoln, UK), David Coyle (University College Dublin) Ireland) and Conor Linehan (University College Cork, Ireland).

A cornerstone of R&I in Horizon 2020 is an investment in better health for all; moreover, encouraging innovation in mental health and wellbeing is key to the EU 3rd Health Programme. "ICT for Health" is also a likely sub-category of Societal Challenge 1 "Health, demographic change & wellbeing" in the 2016-17 work programmes. The EU has a substantial research base in ICT areas relevant to mental health; for instance those concerned with social computing and social media, HCI, online communities, cyber-psychology, web science, and mobile and ubiquitous systems. Research in ICT for mental health however can be viewed as difficult, ethically fraught and demanding of formal collaborations with clinical partners; there is a risk that this ICT research base, and the expertise of its individual researchers, will therefore might unexploited in the face of a major societal challenge.

Over 50 people attended the session,brainstormed new ideas for collaborations and swapped research agendas and contact details.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/events/cf/ict2015/item-display.cfm?id=15854
 
Description Panel at the British HCI 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact There is, at present, limited engagement by the HCI community in research that is concerned with mental health and wellbeing, as is starkly reflected, for instance, in the EPSRC portfolio. Without coordinated support, pump-priming activity and facilitated collaboration with relevant clinical partners, user groups and other organisations, there is major risk that our research base, and expertise, will remain unexploited in the face of a major societal challenge. This panel will discussed these challenge and the opportunities available that might go some way to addressing it. In particular the panel presented the aims of the recently announced EPSRC - NIHR HTC Partnership Award "Social Computing and Mental Health Research Network" which will provide funding and facilitate activities to address this challenge over the next two years.
Panel members: Shaun Lawson (University of Lincoln), Mike Craven (MindTech Healthcare Technology Co-operative (HTC) centre), Anja Thieme and Patrick Olivier (Newcastle University), Maria Wolters (University of Edinburgh).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://hci2014.bcs.org/Programme.html
 
Description Second workshop on Alcohol, Wellbeing and Social Media (20th July 2016, Durham) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a one-day, design-focused, research workshop for exploring the digital futures of pubs/bars/cafes as places of social bonding and drinking culture. The workshop was a follow-up on our previous discussion Perspectives on Alcohol and HCI: Building a Research Agenda that took place in Gateshead on 27th June, which brought together researchers from HCI and the social sciences, together with designers, and practitioners interested in research that encompasses health and wellbeing, social media within a drinking culture, alcohol and its associations with technology use. The goal of this workshop was more more design focussed and was to explore how digital technologies can have a role in future experiences of drinking in social contexts and develop technology-enabled scenario narratives by way of prototyping and rehearsing possible futures in the present. A group of 20 researchers, designers and industry practitioners came together to rapid prototype digital design spaces to explore possible shifts in alcohol, media, and socio-technological design of everyday interactions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Self Harm Hackathon (Newcastle, April 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact On the weekend of 16-17th April 2016 we organised a hackathon at Newcastle University during which teams of designers were asked to conceptualise and prototype digital products or services for those affected by self-harm. Value- sensitive actions and activities, including engagements with those with lived experiences of self-harm, were used to scaffold the conventional hackathon format in such a challenging context. The hackaton led to a number of prototypes that have been shown to clinicians and other groups, the results of which will appear in a paper accepted for CHI 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://self-harmony.co.uk/
 
Description Two day international hack event: Create for Dementia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact On the 30-31st of May 2015, we invited teams of designers, coders, hackers, makers and researchers to come to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Create-4-Dementia. Our aim was to bring people together to share ideas, experiences and concepts as well as build digital prototypes that break-down, problematize and otherwise explore the digital design space around dementia and dementia care. We wanted to motivate critical, even subversive, provocative designs that might attempt to raise questions rather than provide technical solutions.

We made our invitation open to a wide range of people, including: software and hardware developers, designers and practitioners with backgrounds in, for instance, Human-Computer Interaction, interaction design, healthcare or education, or anyone who was interested in identifying new ideas, critiques and digital designs for the care of people with dementia. Teams competed for juried prizes and we provided space for work, rest and creativity as well as food, inspiring speakers, mentors and prototyping hardware and facilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://create4dementia.com/
 
Description Workshop at CHI 2012 "Designing for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The CHI 2012 workshop on Interaction Design and Emotional Wellbeing took place in Austin Texas on the 6th of May 2012. It provided an initial forum to examine uses of interactive and social technology to support mental health and emotional wellbeing. The workshop was co-organised by Conor Linehan from the ENACT project as one of the deliverables of the project but was co-organized jointly with UK colleagues David Coyle (Bristol Univ), Sian Lindley (Microsoft Research) as well as Karen Tang, University of California, Irvine. Further details are available in the workshop abstract published in the ACM Digital Library (see http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2212718).



The workshop was attended by 30 international participants (see http://www.design4wellbeing.org/?page_id=10 for a list of presented papers) and led to a CFP in a special issue of the International Journal of Human Computer Studies (see http://www.design4wellbeing.org/ for CFP).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.design4wellbeing.org/
 
Description Workshop at UK BCS HCI conference "People, Computers, and Psychotherapy" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact This was a workshop organized by the ENACT team to hold a more UK - focussed event similar to the CHI workshop held earlier in the year. The workshop was attended by 20 participants - some from the EU but mainly UK based and included practitioners delivering online mental health interventions in a range of settings.



There is an urgent and identified need for technology-led interventions for common mental health problems. The successful delivery of such technology has huge potential to impact the health and wellbeing of millions of people in the UK alone. However, the design of technology to facilitate and deliver psychotherapy is a complex multidisciplinary challenge, requiring expertise from fields such as HCI, software design, psychology, and clinical and primary care. There are significant and unique challenges involved in understanding how to bring these disciplines together to create a coherent, engaging and useful programme of therapy. This workshop is intended to bring together a diverse cross-disciplinary community of basic and applied researchers, to share existing knowledge, define new opportunities and set an agenda for future research in this field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL https://sites.google.com/site/psychohci2012/home