Today, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, according to World Health Organization. This is what’s been registered so far, however, there are a lot more people who never say anything about their mood and health conditions.
People who are suffering from depression and anxiety are most likely not to tell anybody about their mental health and tend to avoid any contacts. However, the depression is very individual and each person responds differently, one of the signs of depression is isolation from other people because a depressed person is getting tired of “I’m fine” and “Everything is okay” masks.
Apart from a decreased interest in social interactions, depressed people also tend to enjoy less every activity or thing that used to be pleasurable for them, according to Nature.
In the age of Big Data, neuroscientists use different approaches, tools and findings to analyze the causes of depression either biological or other. Neuroscientists leverage brain scanning technologies for neural anatomy to analyze cognitive, clinical, genetic and other activities.
Handling highly-dimensional data sets is tough without applying machine-learning techniques to find the patterns in the brain activity changes. However, it’s one of the most important things to do in order to minimize vague assumptions and theories.
While it may seem that depression is a children whim it actually affects anybody of any status and age be it teenagers, adults, workers, CEOs, etc. When a person is depressed it greatly hurts their welfare as well as everybody’s who may surround the person. Depression can easily disrupt relationships, friendships and workflows at a company.
According to VeryWellMind, depression usually leads to around 50% of productivity drop at work, at school or at other activities which require concentration and effectiveness. On a larger scale, depression greatly affects the working environment and leads to a decrease in business capacity which overall impacts the global economy.
From the science standpoint, the main cause of depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, however, Harvard University explains a much more complex side of the problem in their article. A person’s predisposition to depression lies in their natural resistance to stressful situations in their life, health condition, medications and other things.
According to common sense, it’s clear that depending on the priority and importance of some event such as loss of a relative people may be affected faster. On the other hand, a lot of micro events every single day that do not align with a person’s interests or goals may lead to depression.
For example, when a person wants to see their family but is forced to work 8-12 hours a day, 6 days a week to provide for themselves and their family. A person wants to spend time with their family and also needs to provide for them. This person is stuck in a never-ending circle of imbalance between work and life which leads them to being depressed.
A lot of companies have tried to change the work culture and cut off the working hours to 6 hours a day but failed to sustain these hours for long as, for example, Sweden elderly care home at Gothenburg. During the trial they, indeed, saw an increase in productivity and the staff wellbeing. However, it cost the city 12 million kronor, according to BBC news.
On the other hand, many other companies have got inspired and thus Collins SBA, an Australian company, managed to reduce the working hours to 5 hours a day, and they also reported a decrease of depression signs and increase in the positive mood of the staff.
“There’s this beautiful freedom to being able to walk out the door in the middle of the afternoon and know you’re not being judged.”
The new wave of reducing the working hours may help people become happier and prevent the burnout what, unfortunately, may not be said about start-ups and other businesses. It may take more time and money to develop something, however, in the long run, it may change the work culture and the way we used to see things.
While private companies are trying their best to arrange the working environment and establish the work culture that thing only may not be enough to deal with depression on a global scale.
Healthcare organizations have a different, more scientific, approach. They invest in the development of depression treatments and medications. Processing tons of data on how the brain works and how the neuroconnections are built under depression. Healthcare organizations try to come up with the best solutions for individuals.
MQ Mental Health funds £200,000 for four data science projects to target the main challenges in mental health. The four projects that they will be working on are:
The major target of the organization is to find the right medical and non-medical treatment for depression. The problem lies in identifying the behavioral patterns, mood conditions and changes for each individual. Because there may be various causes of depression it’s difficult to choose the right treatment, explains Dr Claire Gillan at Trinity College Dublin.
According to Scientific American, scientists are interested in predicting the suicide risk or a treatment response.
Practitioners and scientists conduct various psychiatric questionnaires to collect information on decision-making skills, reinforcement learning, etc. The analyzed data helped scientists to identify the depression symptoms and patterns that have led to depression using computational psychiatry approaches.
Computational psychiatry is a discipline that appeared on the intersection of computational neuroscience and psychiatry, and aims to better understand and cure mental illnesses using machine learning technologies.
Analyzing something so abstract as a human mind is a very challenging thing. It requires us to think out of the box in order to find approaches to analyze the brain and connect it to the mathematical understanding of mental function and dysfunction. Even though, the computational psychiatry is only emerging and developing it may become a revolutionary approach to fighting depression and mental illnesses.