If you have a smartphone, then right now you could be taking part in the world’s largest mental health study. Sounds interesting? Then head over to http://howistheworldfeeling.spurprojects.org/ to join in.
If you need a bit more convincing, then read on.
The survey is called How Is The World Feeling?, and it’s aiming to get a snapshot of how everyday people around the world are feeling during this week (October 10th- October 16th). The target is to have 7 million people taking part, and 70 million emotions logged.
It’s been set up by Spur Projects , a non-profit suicide prevention charity based in Australia. Their previous projects focus on encouraging Australians, especially males, to protect themselves and each other by talking instead of staying silent.
This project, while still ultimately working towards their suicide prevention goals, is taking the wider approach of understanding emotions. As a major player in suicidal feelings is the sense of isolation, seeing the data from potentially millions of people can help show that people aren’t alone, that many others are sharing their experiences. Also, the act of recording emotions and activities may help people gain more awareness of themselves and their reactions, which is useful both in times of good mental health and poor mental health.
Taking part in the survey is simple; you just need to sign up on the app either through a social media login, or just creating a name on the account itself.
Using the app is a case of selecting which emotion you’re currently feeling, and how strongly. It then asks you what kind of activity you’re taking part in (such as work, study, relaxing, errands, or nothing in particular), and whether you are alone or with people. This is to help with the awareness element, as it can help you discover patterns in what activities are connected with emotion changes.
The app is set to ask you how you’re feeling 5 times a day by default, which can be changed to between 2 and times a day. Aside from that, you can add readings whenever you want, the only limitation being that you can’t add readings less than 10 minutes apart.
The HITWF app focuses on six emotions; Happy, Sad, Anxious, Angry, Powerful and Peaceful. You can only select one emotion per entry, which I initially thought was a limitation- however, I can see why this structure is in place. Firstly, it means people need to choose their most prominent emotion, which helps with the awareness point above. Secondly, factoring in the combinations of emotions, rather than single emotions, would add so much complexity and so many more variables to the data that it might get in the way of HITWF’s second goal.
Their goal, a freely accessible data set which can inform mental health research, is a big part of why I’m strongly supporting this project over the multitude of existing mood tracking apps.
Having accessible data means anyone with stats knowledge has the ability to find something useful. It means researchers can use this data set in mental health research, as they have a set of data taken in clearly-defined conditions. It also means mental health charities can figure out what groups of people might be more at risk, and give out information reflecting that.
Given the amount of data collected from the 20,000-participant pilot project, How Is Australia Feeling, I’m optimistic about the amount of information we can all find out from HITWF.