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How smartphones could help manage mental health

How much can a day-to-day conservation on a smartphone reveal about your mental health?

USQ Springfield senior lecturer Dr Rajib Rana thinks it can reveal a lot.

Dr Rana, who is an advance research fellow at USQ’s Institute of Resilient Regions, is using machine learning to research the early detection of mood changes, which are typical of mental health issues and relapses.

Machine learning is a field of computer science that uses statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to “learn” with data, without being explicitly programmed.

The benefits of Dr Rana’s work could extend far beyond the individual, with research showing early detection and intervention could save 60 per cent of hospitalisations, potentially saving the Queensland economy about $500 million.

“Early diagnosis of relapse enables clinicians to provide support before hospitalisation, reducing the burden on the hospital system and providing patients with the best chance of maintaining education or employment,” he said.

Dr Rana plans to use his research to make a tool to automatically determine mood from a day-to-day conversation on a smartphone and a system for early diagnosis of relapse by tracking mood in real-time.

The plan is to commercialise the system and allow patients to identify and track their mood, which may help them to seek help early to avoid long-term hospitalisation.

Dr Rana was recently recognised as being among Australia’s most outstanding young scientific researches and communicators with a Young Tall Poppy Science Award.

USQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Mark Harvey said it was an outstanding achievement.

“These awards recognise up and coming scientists and researchers who are not only conducting world-class research but also communicating and engaging with the community to encourage a greater engagement in science,” Professor Harvey said.

“Dr Rana’s work will no doubt have benefits in the mental health sector, while his contribution to coding clubs and schools to encourage careers in STEM also shows a commitment to inspring the next generation of researchers.”

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