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Study into how wearable tech can improve mental health

Research has been launched to explore how wearable technology and smart textiles can help people with mental health issues.

Dr Sarah Kettley
Dr Kettley with the research team

Research has been launched to explore how wearable technology and smart textiles can help people with mental health issues.

Led by Dr Sarah Kettley, a senior lecturer in product design at Nottingham Trent University, the project centres on involving people who use mental health services in the design process to ensure the technology evolves to benefit them in their everyday lives.

"The environment we live in is becoming smarter and smarter," said Dr Kettley, of the University's School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment.

"Wearable technology and smart textiles are advancing rapidly and it's important that their potential applications are designed with all corners of society in mind.

"This is about giving people with mental health issues a voice in how that technology is shaped.

"The aim is to raise new questions about how it can be used and personalised, and how it can empower people and help them express their creativity.

"When you consider that one in four of us is likely to experience mental health problems at some point in our lives, it's important to ensure that technology is designed with everyone in mind."

The £333,000 project will last 18 months and is funded by a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

It will be run in conjunction with Nottinghamshire Mind Network in consultation with up to 20 people who use the charity's services

Professor David Brown, of the University's School of Science and Technology, and Dr Amanda Briggs-Goode, of the University's School of Art & Design, are co-investigators on the project.

Technology to be explored will include fabric tilt switches, which sense their own orientation; embroidered fabric sensors, which complete an electrical circuit when stroked; fabric push-button switches; light-up gloves; and networked.

Participants will initially work with the researchers and Mind staff to create personalised textile soft switches and light outputs, part of which will result in guidelines for other mental health professionals to use as a reference on how to run their own smart textile workshops.

A flat will be furnished by invited textile artists which will be used to examine the experiences of participants living alone with the technology and with other people. Groups will help design how the interfaces are networked together.

Participants will then pilot the technology on days out to help identify triggers of anxiety. When linked to a network, it aims to help participants become more aware of each other's needs and help develop concepts for peer support. The potential for this data being shared with carers will be also be explored.

The project will also explore how the technology can be used in sensory rooms for rehabilitation and occupational therapies to help children with learning difficulties.

The participants' ability to cope with aspects of their life will be collaboratively assesses from the start to the end of the project to help determine whether the use of the technology may have had a positive impact on their health.

Nic Roberts, of the Notts Mind Network, said: "The project is a great opportunity for Mind to develop its presence in Nottingham city and increase equality of access to Mind's services across Nottinghamshire.

"With one in four people experiencing a mental health issue at some point in their lives, the need for support, information, prevention and challenging stigma has never been greater.

"Mind has the needs of people with mental health issues at the forefront of all its services and the person-centred approach to this project means that individual needs are not ignored but acknowledged and valued."

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Study into how wearable tech can improve mental health

Published on 27 October 2014
  • Category: Business; Press office; Research; School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment

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