Introducing Moodbeam, the first "wearable for the mind” that's changing mental health perceptions
In what can only be a positive move, more people are discussing mental health than ever before. In professional and personal spheres, it has become a high-profile topic of conversation.
Charities such as Mind and the Campaign Against Living Miserably continue their vigorous advocacy, while public bodies gradually turn their attention to the growing crisis - which has seen increasing antidepressant prescription rates and widespread mental health cuts.
Even within businesses, the conversation’s getting louder and the prevalence and danger of stress and depression is no longer hidden away. And people are continually looking for new ways to manage their mood.
The start of something innovative
When journalist Christina Colmer McHugh’s daughter, then seven, began to struggle at school, Christina “wanted to empower her child to capture how she felt, so that they could talk about the highs and lows of each day.”
She and her co-founder, Jonathan Elvidge, ran with this thought process and created Moodbeam - “the first wearable for the mind.”
Moodbeam One, the proprietary product, “allows its user to log moods and visualise them, so that they get to keep an eye on their mental health, all at the press of a button.”
It gave Colmer McHugh an insight into the times her daughter was feeling great, and the times when her mood dropped - so she could address why. Its potential was much greater, though - and it’s now received interest from medical partners, workplaces, and educational centres.
Moodbeam One is a simple and low-key wearable wristband featuring just two buttons - one yellow to mark an increase in mood, and one blue to mark a drop.
It’s “already paving the way in mental health early intervention and self care,” she says. “It has been trialled by individuals and organisations who want an accessible, affordable way of evidencing mood.”
It also allows for continuing contact for overstretched GPs. “It is already being discussed within the realm of general practice as a tool that could be handed out by GPs at first appointments for those with mental health concerns, allowing for mood recording between appointment times and referrals.”
Their Northern base is important “due to C4DI in Hull. It’s an incubator that has allowed us to bring an idea to fruition but has also introduced us to people whose job it is to find a positive way of addressing mental health.”
A new solution to a persistent issue
Keeping it hands-on, mindful and straightforward is Moodbeam’s secret. For Colmer McHugh, its ”simplicity is its strength”.
The point of choosing a wearable? “It’s with you all the time. Its gentle haptic allows for prompted input... or practical self-awareness through button presses as and when a mood takes a change.
“It has no screen, no noise and can be used when walking, showering, exercising, working, talking, driving, [or] when you’re at the cinema.”
Even better, “the physical press has been described as an enjoyable experience, often affecting mood in a positive way by the simple act of pressing the button.”
As opposed to technologies that track mood using heart and breathing rate or body temperature, “[Moodbeam] relies entirely on self-input,” she says. “Historically, no-one has ever really stopped to think how they feel and certainly never had the opportunity to log it.
“You get to see what those ‘presses’ look like, and correlate them against activities and actions, [which] is very revealing for the wearer.”
The future of digital healthcare for mental illness
The team at Moodbeam secured funding in May 2018, so they could begin production of 5,000 units and the accompanying app. From spring they’ll be on the market, with some on pre-order right now.
Colmer McHugh herself sees digital healthcare itself becoming “more human centric. That might sound strange in a world where algorithms, AI and robots are now leading the way in informing us as a society, but humans still have minds that will help us make informed decisions.”
The mind remains the most important to look after. “Sure,” she says, “we’ll most likely have health interventions embedded in our bodies 20 years from now, but it’s how our brains communicate that information that holds the power.”