Health body commits $675K in funding for hackers fighting mental illness

Hacking Mental Health wants Canada’s tech community to help in fight against mental illness

Health body commits $675K in funding for hackers fighting mental illness
Mental health in Canada is an issue that until pretty recently was largely swept under the rug. This was particularly the case in the workplace, but now greater understanding of the problem means many employers are offering help to their employees. Close to 40% of long-term disability claims in Canada are related to psychological health, so really this was an issue that couldn’t be ignored any longer.
One group that is at the forefront of the drive to combat any stigma that remains about mental illness, and help those who are suffering is Hacking Mental Health. This June 4–6 at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto the National e-Health Annual Conference & Tradeshow takes place. There, up to $675,000 in of grants will be allocated to various projects.  The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has pledged to finance projects that can improve mental health for the public.  Hackers at the event will work alongside teams of CIHR researchers to build prototypes over the three-day hackathon. Each project idea will then be funded with up to $75,000 to fully develop a prototype into a validated mental health solution.
The nine project ideas are:
  • Mental support application for precarious and unemployed workers
  • Supporting the mental health of long-term care workers
  • Fostering well-being, stress reduction and sense of belonging during critical transitions to full-time work
  • Taking control of digital stress in health-care settings
  • E-health interventions for Indigenous mental health in the workplace
  • Addressing the burden of addictions on the workforce with e-tool solutions
  • Building accessible mental health literacy training and supports for under-resourced health-care workplaces
  • Developing an e-mental health program for prevention of major depression in workplaces
  • Role strain support for caregiver employees through digital solutions
Hadi Salah, co-founder of Hacking Health, explains some of the successful projects from last year’s event.
“Our past Toronto hackathon was focused on virtual care and telemedicine,” he says. “We saw a family healthcare team develop a solution that allowed patients to see their labs results, and a team develop mobile health solution for older adults with cognitive decline using the arts as a vehicle for engagement.”
Hacking Health began as single event in Montreal in 2012, bringing frontline healthcare staff together with the technology and design communities to generate game-changing ideas. Since then, the organization has grown into a global movement spanning over 25 countries.
As far as who those innovators may be, Salah identifies designers, programmers and developers, engineers, mental health experts and patients as likely sources come the Hackathon in June. It is an event he is immensely proud of and one he sees growing in influence as the years go by.
“The amazing thing about a hackathon is you never know where the creativity of a diverse group of talented individuals will take you,” he says. “In the past we have seen projects become start-ups; we have seen projects get internalized by healthcare institutions; we have seen projects crowdfund to raise capital; and we have seen projects get used in the community to impact thousands.”

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