For a teen struggling with depression and other mood disorders it can be hard to admit you need help, or even understand what the problem is. Researchers at Rutgers are working on a smartphone app that can make tracking troubling patterns easier for parents, and hopefully help in the fight against teen suicide.
The app is the brainchild of Yanyong Zhang and Brian Chu, both associate professors at Rutgers, and was developed with the help of graduate students at the school’s Wireless Information Network Laboratory. It’s called Crowd ++, and it’s built to identify specific social habits that may signal a deeper issue brewing.
Crowd++ is actually a combination of three different monitoring features: First, the app uses a smartphone’s built-in microphone to track social activity and movement. Second, phone call and text activity are monitored for frequency. Lastly, a brief daily questionnaire asks the user to describe how they’re feeling.
The app has some limitations, and in order for it to work as intended, the user can’t forget their phone, frequently turn it off, or refuse to voice their feelings in the daily diary. In short, the app, which is still in development, may face an uphill battle to get teens to actually use it. But by combining a trio of approaches and using technology to do much of the heavy lifting, it still has a good chance to make a real difference.
Rutgers says the researchers hope to eventually develop a digital coach that can help teens manage their moods in healthy ways and curb any potentially harmful habits before they become life-altering problems.