Depressed? There’s an App for That

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Patients under treatment for depression typically see a therapist at regular intervals. Still, it’s common for psychiatric patients to have a “crisis” outside of therapy. Traditionally, family and friends have had to notice and intervene in order to get the patient the help they need. There’s always the concern, however, that a depressed individual won’t have family or friends nearby during a crisis, or that they will hide the symptoms of their depression.


Researchers at Northwestern University are working to see whether it’s possible to use smartphone technology to monitor the behavior of psychiatric patients. The phone app under development, called Mobilyze, tracks patient activity and alerts contacts if the patient’s activity changes in ways that indicate a depressive crisis.

From the lab website of lead researcher David Mohr:

Mobilyze uses data from sensors already embedded in the phone, such as GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, accelerometers, etc., and uses them to identify patient states. The aim is to develop an automated system for detecting mood-related states, without requiring patient self-report. This context-aware application on the mobile phone has the potential to address non-adherence and other treatment difficulties as they occur in real-time.

The investigators are setting up a study to subject the Mobilyze! system to usability testing and then pilot the Mobilyze system in an 8 week intervention for people who meet criteria for Major Depressive Disorder. Individuals interested in participating in the study can enroll at the Mohrlab project page.

Source: Mohr Lab, Deparment of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University

About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.