There’s more mood monitoring and advice giving apps on the market than you can shake an iPhone at.
BlueIce is another. It helps you monitor your mood.
However, BlueIce is also different.
Why BlueIce is different
Mental health services in Bath were getting a clear message from their users. “If we self-harm we don’t know what to do, we feel alone and don’t have anyone to talk to”. When Bath University asked them if a self-harm prevention app would be helpful the answer was “yes”.
This isn’t surprising. BlueIce is an app that’s designed specifically for use in a clinical setting by young self-harmers. It faces a rigorous academic trialing process before it becomes available and it isn’t planned for wider release. It’s not a social tech venture – it’s a locals only app.
Paul Stallard of Bath University is clinical lead. He describes Blue Ice as “a way for users to take ideas from clinical sessions back to their home, for use when they are alone.”
What It Does
BlueIce gives users a mood check-in dashboard. You rate your mood and it checks how you’re feeling. If you’re not feeling good then it takes you through to a set of mood-related clinical activities designed to help you feel better.
Once you’ve done an activity then it asks you to re-rate your mood. If your mood has improved then you can log off. However, if it hasn’t then it offers more questions about whether you feel like hurting yourself before offering you further options depending on the level of risk it thinks you’re at.
Creating BlueIce has so far followed a 12 month design route. The team began with a thorough literature review of the evidence on self-harm. This generated a list of ideas to shape the apps features.
They then went to a focus group of young mental health service users. This was used to get a proof of concept and as an opportunity to develop more detailed content. Most importantly it helped the team reality test their assumptions and stretch their ideas about what the app needed.
The group also gave input into the name (Blue = depressed, Ice = in case of emergency) and brainstormed ideas around line and layout.
After this the team wireframed the visuals and content, talked to potential users and then set out to build a Beta version.
Testing & Safety
The Beta is being tested in a clinical setting. To be safe for use by young people who are at a high level of risk the app needs to be very reliable i.e. not freeze or have inaccessible information. Because of this testing is initially focusing on its use with young people who are at lower levels of risk.
Paul also points out another reason to be careful and rigorous in testing BlueIce: “By asking someone to rate their mood you increase their awareness of how they are feeling. While this can be a good thing it also has a risk of confirming or reinforcing your sense of hopelessness and helplessness, especially if you score low over a number of days.”
The BlueIce team is well aware that should trials reveal the app to be disempowering or counterproductive then it could be best to end its development.
Extending Clinical Work Out of the Clinical Session
If BlueIce passes its tests the app will be used in a supervised way, as an adjunct to the mental health team’s clinical work. It will take the insight, strategies and support generated during the clinical session, and give them to users to carry around on their phone. That way when they feel low and likely to self-harm they will have live support to deal with their feelings.
BlueIce will be available in 2014.
There are other mood monitoring apps developed by Universities. None are designed for use in clinical settings but here’s three of the best known:
- Mood Mate (University of Reading) – a mood monitoring app designed to find out if mood monitoring helps reduce depression
- SAM (University of the West of England) – an anxiety management app for students
- Emotion Sense (University of Cambridge) – an app that relates your mood to other data captured by your phone during the day