The world’s largest mental health study is slated to take place soon and it’s not taking place in a university lab or hospital. Called How is the World Feeling?, the project aims to start a dialogue about mental health by gathering anonymized data from Android and iOS users for one week starting Oct. 10. The open source data will be made available to mental health professionals.
“Despite the increase in awareness of mental health over the past several years, there's still a long way to go before mental health conversations are the norm,” wrote Spur Projects, which was co-founded by Lee Crockford, on their website. “We think everyone taking part in the world's largest mental health project is a pretty good conversation starter.”
Those who want to take part simply download the app and answer a few questions about themselves—age, gender identity, sexual identity, relationship status, etc—and share their data on how they’re feeling with a quick tap of a button. From Oct. 10 to 16, the app will notify participants to check-in and record their feeling at that given moment.
Users of the app, which is available in nine languages, can look at data in real-time during the project and also view their feelings history to self-reflect or get the support they need. The app will also suggest localized tools and resources.
“As humans, we tend to 'group' our emotions,” wrote Spur Projects. “For example, when you get home from work, it's common to sum up the day in one word, like: stressful, or productive, etc. However, in reality, we experience a huge range of emotional nuance throughout each day. By being aware of these smaller nuances, we're far more capable of understanding any red or green flags that may need action.”
The broader goal behind the study is to address the global suicide epidemic. Around the world, one million people take their own lives. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 24 percent increase in suicide from 1999 to 2014.
In 2014, a pilot of this project—called How is Australia Feeling?—was conducted in Australia and gathered 20,000 submissions in six days from the country. The data found that happiness was the most common feeling reported followed by peacefulness and anxiousness. The happiest city in Australia was Brisbane, which also happens to be the least peaceful city, as well.
According to the team behind the initiative, Spur Projects, addressing mental health problems require two things: people being self aware of their feelings and people being willing to take “some sort of positive action” if changes are necessary—positive actions can range from sharing their feelings to getting professional support. Data from the app can help participants with becoming more self aware of their emotions.
“How is the World Feeling? is the largest democratic mental health survey in the world - with the aim of collecting over 70 million emotions," wrote Spur Projects. "Access to such a large, international set of data means unprecedented understanding of mental health across an extremely vast range of demographics and geography.”