Ezra* was hospitalized 10 times last year.
“My mental health started getting really bad five years ago,” the 19-year-old said.
“I didn’t study and could hardly work.
“I had to leave school [of university] Because I was really sick. ”
- 1 in 5 Australians are living with a mental or behavioral problem
- Australian trial Unwired aims to reduce hospitalizations and suicides in people with mental illness
- Data was collected on 50 people using the Embrace2 wearable wrist device over a period of 6 months.
They tackle 5 mental health issues. Gender dysphoria, anorexia nervosa, borderline personality disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, chronic depression.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 5 Australians have a mental or behavioral problem.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, about $2.9 billion is spent to admit people to public hospitals for mental health services.
For three years, Ezra was in and out of hospitals.
Their psychologist then recommended an innovative research trial.
Ezra has been hospitalized only once this year.
Australia’s first trial, Unwired, aims to reduce hospitalization and suicide among people with mental illness aged 16-25 by detecting early warning signs of relapse of psychosis.
The trial, conducted by Prevention, Early Recovery and Intervention Services (PIERS), is based in Parramatta.
50 participants using the Embrace2 wearable wrist device for 6 months measured stress, activity and sleep data.
About half of the people uploaded this data to their psychologists daily, who were able to intervene in treatment before their mental health deteriorated.
The trial’s principal investigator, Professor Anthony Harris, said the treatment was tailored to the participants.
Professor Harris says, “Unless you try to kill yourself, hurt yourself a lot, or have an illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, you won’t be seen by this team.
Psychologist Ahmed Tohamy said data from Ezra’s wearables helped influence treatment sessions and personalize treatments.
“We were looking for a big spike…() we were looking for a sustained spike,” he said.
“Then I take it to Ezra and say, ‘Hey, look at this. Do you know what happened here? Can we talk about it?'”
Analyzing patterns could prevent another trip to the hospital, he said.
According to Tohamy, the data helped participants relive their memories and encouraged them to talk about experiences they might otherwise have forgotten or simply didn’t want to talk about.
We also map breakthroughs during treatment sessions, as the data revealed that emotional sessions lead to subsequent periods of stability.
“I remember it being amazing,” Ezra said.
“I was able to identify peak times of stress, such as when I was at work during the day, or when I was at home and arguing with my parents.
“We were then able to use that data to come up with ideas on how to manage things like how to sleep better, how to manage stress at work, how to manage stress in all situations.”
Understanding his sleep disorder improved their rest, Ezra said.
However, not all participants showed the same improvement.
This was especially true for participants who didn’t have a case manager to analyze the data, Harris said.
“For several days I could see this young woman’s sleep completely falling apart,” he said.
“We could see her relapse.”
“She became psychotic and had to be readmitted.”
Harris believes the findings from ongoing trials can be applied to prevent relapses when they are most likely to occur.
“So I’m going to watch people after they leave the hospital,” he said.
“The first few weeks after discharge from the hospital … are the times when the risk of recurrence is highest.”
He wants to do this with wearable devices that have long battery life.
Some participants suffering from mental illness forget to charge the Embrace2 wearable every few days.
Harris said one goal is to have a smartwatch with a battery life of seven days for case managers to charge during their weekly therapy sessions.
Another idea was to leverage data already collected by popular Apple and Android smart watches.
“Over time, people will just be using the devices they[already]have,” he said.
“That’s the goal.”
Ezra completed her trial in June and no longer wears Embrace2.
They are now PIERS support workers helping people with their mental health.
“I still do [feel really bad] I think it’s part of mental illness recovery,” they said.
“[But] I now have a strategy in my toolbox and know how to manage it in advance. ”
*Ezra is not his real name.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-12-24/data-trial-preventing-mentally-unwell-youth-hospitalisations/101793876 New trial to reduce hospitalization and suicide among young people