October 10th 2019 marks World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising global awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. It’s therefore the perfect day for CREST.BD to officially launch our flagship project: ‘Bipolar Bridges: A Digital Health Innovation Targeting Quality of Life in Bipolar Disorder.’
Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Bipolar Bridges represents the culmination of a decade of work by CREST.BD to support health and quality of life (QoL) in people with bipolar disorder. You may be aware that our team has produced two signature websites: our online ‘Quality of Life Tool’ (an evidence-based QoL measurement tool) and an innovative ‘Bipolar Wellness Centre’ (a website that curates and shares evidence on self-care or self-management strategies for bipolar disorder). Whilst we’re proud of these websites, and the impact they’ve had, they have their limitations. First, the two websites aren’t integrated; they work in isolation, and don’t give users with bipolar disorder any insights into the relationship between their personal self-management behaviours and their QoL. Second, they’re websites; we know that more and more people are now using mobile apps for health information. Third, we were funded to develop them as research outputs; we needed to test whether they were beneficial for people with bipolar disorder before we further expanded and refined them. Now that we have this evidence in hand , it’s time to think about how we can most effectively open access to QoL and self-management information to more diverse people with bipolar disorder.
And this is where Bipolar Bridges comes in. Over the next three years, we will develop and evaluate a new mobile app that will attempt to address some of the most pressing real-world problems that people with bipolar disorder face when using online technologies.
One significant problem with currently available digital mental health technologies is that they support the creation of ‘islands of health data’ – and there are no bridges between these islands.
The aims for Bipolar Bridges are as follows:
- First, the app will empower users to combine and learn from different forms of digital self-management and QoL data (for example, sleep quality, mood management, activity levels, social connections), all in one place. One significant problem with currently available digital mental health technologies is that they support the creation of ‘islands of health data’ – and there are no bridges between these islands.
- Second, it will take advantage of advances in online technologies (for the techies amongst you, a Blockchain-based platform) to provide a secure and safe interface where the user is in control of their own health data.
- Third, it will be co-designed with diverse (for example, people with different gender identities, or of different ethnic or cultural backgrounds) people with bipolar disorder.
- Finally, it will use AI (machine learning) approaches to begin to explore the question of whether self-management behaviours can predict QoL over time in people with bipolar disorder.
The goals of Bipolar Bridges are ambitious. But our CREST.BD team is uniquely positioned to conduct a study of this nature. We’ve spent years developing and refining a bipolar disorder-specific model of community-based research. The team behind the project is large and highly-interdisciplinary and, of course, includes people with lived experience. But it will take a village for Bipolar Bridges to realize its full potential. If the project intrigues or excites you, sign up for our newsletter or follow our social media channels to learn more about how to get involved. We’ll also blog on the project once a month here.
In the meantime though, join us in celebrating World Mental Health Day, in the spirit of knowing that health, recovery and QoL can be attainable, for all of us.
World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day, which takes place annually on October 10th, is a day devoted to raising awareness about mental health issues and taking action in support of mental health care. It’s a day when all of us working towards improved mental health have the opportunity to share what we’ve been working on, and how we’re contributing a better system of mental health care. Join the conversation on Twitter, with the hashtag #WorldMentalHealthDay!
The project will be co-led by Dr. Erin Michalak and Dr. Steven Barnes, joined by 10 members of the CREST.BD team, including: Dr. Greg Murray, Dr. Raymond Lam, Dr. Colin Depp, Dr. Rachelle Hole, Dr. Martin Provencher, Dr. Lakshmi Yatham, Dr. Roumen Milev, Dr. Emma Morton, Sara Lapsley, and Ryan Tine. Their application was top-ranked in their CIHR committee with a reviewer score of 4.6 out of 5.
Partner organizations supporting the project include Hope + Me – Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT), Revivre, Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI), HeadsUpGuys, Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), BC SUPPORT Unit, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Digital Hub for Mental Health.
Partner organizations for Bipolar Bridges