At Data Republic we believe that data can change the world for good – and I’m not just talking about better business outcomes. I am lucky to have the millennial’s dream job of establishing Minerva as a separate not-for-profit organisation, dedicated to using data for social good.
While we’re finalising details for the official launch of Minerva, the team at Data Republic and I have started working with ReachOut Australia to develop our pilot social good project. I want to share what we’ve uncovered so far to spread the word and recruit support for this worthy cause.
ReachOut is the world’s first online mental health service, established 18 years ago. They provide practical self-help tools and support to help 1.3 million young Australians every year to get through tough times.
I’ve been shocked by some of the things I’ve learnt in my conversations with the team at ReachOut about the scope of mental health issues we face in our country. Did you know that in Australia suicide is the leading cause of death for males and females between the ages of 15 and 44? The leading cause! That means if you have a teenage son or daughter, suicide is sadly statistically the most likely reason they will not reach adulthood.
In a mental health system that’s struggling to cope with the existing demand, getting the right help to more people is the challenge ReachOut.com is trying to solve. Timing is another factor for ReachOut as there is clear evidence that receiving help early in symptom development is critical to reducing both the severity and duration of mental health problems. Unfortunately, the average time between onset of symptoms of a tough time and someone proactively seeking treatment is 10 years. This means the system can’t wait for people to come to it; the help needs to go to people directly.
A path forward using data
If ReachOut can proactively provide its self-help tools to more young people showing early symptoms of a tough time, fewer young Australians will develop severe, long-term mental health problems and the number of lives lost to suicide will decline. This is the ambitious challenge we, at Data Republic, are attempting to solve with our first Minerva project.
Building on the hypothesis that symptoms or early signs of a tough time could be identified through behaviours captured in de-identified proprietary data, Data Republic is exploring the possibility of a scoring system which would enable ReachOut to prioritise and direct relevant content to people who are likely to need it.
All data exchanged or analysed as part of such a project would be completely de-identified, with strict security protocols enforced through Data Republic technology on the access, analysis and permitted use of the data.
We take the ethical, legal and technical considerations of pursuing a sensitive project of this kind very seriously, and are working closely with ReachOut and several of Sydney’s leading Data Scientists to solve these challenges.
While it won’t be easy, we see this as too critical an opportunity to shy away from. If we can do this we can, quite seriously, save lives.
Want to get involved?
If you’re a Data Geek and would like to get involved in this project or discuss another data for social good project please get in touch!