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Combating Student Mental Illness with Technology—from the Imagine Cup UK Finals

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Mental illness is a serious health issue in modern society, and it is more common than diabetes, heart disease or even cancer. Options for treatment are limited and it becomes more difficult for the patient to recover as the illness progresses.

In the Soothey project, we combat this by early prevention using an RNN -powered mental healthcare bot. The bot has a conversation with the user, borrowing ideas from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT identifies thought distortions within the patient, using conversation to address their negative thoughts and make them come up with alternative ways of viewing their problems.

Our chatbot can also help develop positive thinking for people without noticeable symptoms of mental illness. Our aim is to make the bot accessible to students everywhere, regardless of their mental state. Casual users can converse with the bot for pleasure without any stigma.

Common Room

Although there is increasing awareness of mental illnesses among student populations, and therefore increased resources available, many students do not know where to turn in moments of crisis. How can one know they are receiving the help they need for their specific issue? And how can we make it as frictionless as possible?

Common Room simplifies and accelerates student access to mental welfare services within their universities. We accomplish this through a chatbot, powered by LUIS , CosmosDB, and other Azure technologies. The chatbot provides automatic triage for a user’s reported symptoms, then connects them to the most relevant welfare support figure for their specific needs with up-to-date contact information.

Unlike most therapy apps, which do not guarantee stable long-term recovery, we do not claim to provide therapy; we are a connector, maintaining the human element in addressing mental illness, and ensuring each individual is treated as such. Our team has extensive experience in clinical, experimental and social psychology, as well as welfare provision within high-pressure universities like Oxford.

After rolling out to universities, Common Room can be expanded to workplaces within major corporations, and encourage a culture of education and tailored mental health service provision. Common Room aspires, above all else, to empower those afflicted with mental illness to take control over obtaining the therapy and guidance they need.

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