Australian nonprofit launches app to collect 70 million emotions for suicide prevention

By Jonah Comstock
Share

An Australian nonprofit aimed at preventing suicides by changing the conversation around mental health has launched an ambitious app-based research project with the goal of getting 7 million participants to log their mood within a one-week period. "How is the World Feeling?", an app by Spur Projects, will launch October 10th.

"Suicide is a worldwide epidemic, with over one million men and women taking their own lives each year," the company writes on the website for the project. "That's more than breast cancer, violence, war or leukemia, to name just a few. Poor mental health is major challenge both socially and economically. A major contributing factor to poor mental health and suicide is a feeling of isolation. The ability to see, in real-time, how 7 million people are feeling normalizes the extremely broad range of emotions that are experienced every second of every day."

The app is the follow-up to a pilot program also called "How is Australia Feeling?" that managed to spur 20,000 participants in six days. Users download the app and fill out a brief demographic survey, and then are prompted throughout the day to log their emotions as well as what they're doing. 

The purpose of the study then, is both to serve as a conversation starter and to collect a large set of data, which will then be available to researchers and anyone else who wants to peruse it. They're aiming to get 7 million participants to log a total of 70 million emotions.

"Despite the fact the app is called 'How is the World Feeling?', what's more interesting, from a data perspective, is 'when' and 'why' participants are feeling certain emotions," the company writes. "For example, the app can tell us information like: 'Men between the ages of 18-22 are most anxious on weekday mornings between the hours of 8 am and 10 am when commuting to work, whereas women tend to peak in anxiety in the middle of the day and more prominently at the start of the week'."

The benefit for participants is that the app generates a log of emotions, which helps the user more accurately guage their emotional experiences over time. The app will also automatically suggest coping resources if the user logs a consistent pattern of negative emotions. If users find the log helpful, the app will stick around after the study period so they can continue to use it.