The Wits Health Innovation has open discussions about mental health and other health challenges

The Wits Health Innovation student society has launched a series of monthly meetups to address the role of technology in mental illness and the public health sector on Thursday, March 12.

The Health Innovation Meetup is a collaboration between the society and JoziHub, a local technology and innovation space based in Milpark, Johannesburg.

Keynote speaker, Zanele Hlatshwayo, the founder of Rise18, a project dedicated to suicide prevention and depression awarenews, said that there is a need for local mental health apps. “We need to install apps that are localised, relevant and people can relate to,” Hlatshwayo said.

Hlatshwayo explained that most South African companies do not want to invest in developing mental digital apps because of “the social stigma around mental health in the country.”

Professor Vered Aharonson of the school of electrical and information engineering at Wits, said the aims of digital mental health apps are designed to deliver affordable mental care.  She said the apps can be associated with and conducted by experts in the field. “The doctors, psychologists and even social workers will ensure quality care,” Aharonson said.

Aharonson said the main focus of digital mental apps is to collect data information that can easily identify people who have mental illness. “The apps can be completely confidentialised between the patient and the hospital to try and engage and personalise health,” she said.

Stephan Abrosie, a third year student in civil engineering, said that technology is complicated and it will not be easy to engage with people directly. “If people will be monitored through technology on mental health that would mean there is no confidentiality,” she said.

Abrosie told Wits Vuvuzela that mental health is subjective. That is why people struggle to implement technologies. “There will be no better accuracy, but because the world is evolving, maybe it might be a platform to decrease suicide.”

Dr Gabriella Banade, one of the organisers of the event, said the purpose of the meetups are to inspire creativity and innovation thinking. “We aim to encourage interactive sessions that include problem solving around mental topics.”

The Wits Health Innovation is the division of Wits Health Consortium that is aimed to experience different models of interdisciplinary innovation in healthcare.

FEATURED PHOTO: The Health Innovation team at Parktown Photo: Courtesy of WHI