Conference Proceedings: International Digital Mental Health & Wellbeing Conference: Book of abstracts

RR Bond (Editor), Maurice Mulvenna (Editor), Edel Ennis (Editor)

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Abstract

The programme for the International Digital Mental Health & Wellbeing Conference included 45 talks and attracted around 120 delegates. The conference was organised by the MENHIR project (‘Mental health monitoring through interactive conversations’, funded by H2020 EU research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 823907) as part of the project’s final year to help share its research findings whilst also attracting other researchers, industry and service providers in the field to disseminate their related digital mental health research, projects, studies, results and services.

The conference included a free pre-conference public event to discuss the value of digital mental health, chaired by Professor Maurice Mulvenna (Ulster University). This event was advertised to the public using Eventbrite and using twitter (including via Action Mental Health, a partner on the MENHIR project). Professor Zoraida Callejas (coordinator of the MENHIR project, University of Granada) introduced this event by providing an overview of the MENHIR project and then using an online quiz type activity around the use of digital technology. This activity included interesting insights into the benefits and drawbacks of mental health chatbots. Following this, Dr Colin Gorman (Ulster University and Pneuma Healthcare) gave a talk on how digital technology could help improve services in the area of mental health and wellbeing. This was followed by an open discussion that was facilitated by Dr Edel Ennis (Ulster University) with Dr Colin Gorman and Professor Maurice Mulvenna.

The conference programme comprised of 8 sessions, each representing a theme: digital interventions, virtual reality & gaming, data science & AI, child, youth & student mental health, social media & media reporting, digital technology & dementia, talks from industry & service providers and, finally, a MENHIR-themed workshop (sessions) on conversational systems for mental health & Natural Language Processing (NLP). The latter included a keynote from the coordinator of the MENHIR project (Professor Zoraida Callejas) as well as talks from some of the MENHIR partners. It also included talks from other researchers undertaking related studies in the field of conversational systems/NLP in mental health.

The conference included four excellent keynotes. This included a keynote by Professor Gavin Doherty (Trinity College Dublin​) who presented human computer interaction research in digital mental health. Professor Ciara McCabe also gave a keynote about neuroscience, reward functions and how we can use ecological momentary assessment to collect data. Professor John Torous (Harvard Medical School​) presented research related to mental health apps and the opportunities and challenges that they entail. And as already indicated, Professor Zoraida Callejas presented research on using speech analytics and NLP in mental healthcare. The conference also included a lunch time seminar to provide advice to early career researchers regarding writing papers and publishing, which was facilitated by Tillie Cryer (Nature Portfolio​) and Alison Cuff (BMC digital health).

Four presentations were awarded during the conference. This included an award to Yasmin Ali (University of Nottingham) who presented work on a novel online digital intervention called NEON. Rachel Reeves (Queens University Belfast) received an award based on a presentation on using VR exposure therapy in public speaking. Asher Cohen (Harvard Medical School) was awarded for a presentation based on MindApps.org which is a website that catalogues mental health apps. Natalie Divin (Verbal Arts Centre) was awarded based on a presentation on a novel digital mental health bibliotherapy app for children.

The conference highlighted the excellent digital mental health research that is going on across many different institutions. It also highlighted the benefit from interdisciplinary teams of researchers working together designing and testing novel digital interventions as well as taking an interdisciplinary approach to data science. The conference also helped disseminate the range of novel digital interventions and tools that companies and service providers have designed for clients. It was evident that the conference helped bring together the public (at the free public event), academics, healthcare professionals and industry leaders as well as charities and other service providers. We believe that this inclusive approach is important to bridging the gap between research and real world implementation to make much needed progress in digital mental health.

Finally, having completed the first edition of the conference, we will now host the 2nd International Digital Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference in 2024 in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConference Proceedings: International Digital Mental Health & Wellbeing Conference
Pages1-63
Number of pages63
DOIs
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 4 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • digital mental health
  • digital health
  • mental health

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