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How Big White Wall is using data to improve mental healthcare ()

From helping humans live longer and hacking our performance, to repairing the body and understanding the brain, WIRED Health will hear from the innovators transforming this critical sector. Read all of our WIRED Health coverage here.

Three things get Jen Hyatt out of bed in the morning – her teenage daughter, big numbers and concern about the dominant paradigm of healthcare. 

Speaking at WIRED Health, Hyatt described the "intractable problem in healthcare" of focusing on illness rather than on healthy behaviours. But she also feels that technology could have a transformative role. 

When Hyatt heard the figure, in 2006, that 50 per cent of people with a diagnosable mental health problem didn't even reach their primary care doctor, she decided to do something about it. She founded Big White Wall in 2007 in an attempt to reach out to these people, as well as to "shift from a model of illness to one in which people who need help are supported".

The online community, one of few approved by the NHS, helps users anonymously seek support from peers and therapists.

"We engage in an exercise of co-creation," explained Hyatt. "And digital allows us to co-create because we can see how people are engaging online."

"And the design principles that have emerged from this co-creative act that have broader applicability to healthcare."

Big White Wall gives people "a choice" in the kind of treatment they get, said Hyatt. Cognitive behavioural therapy, while often successful, is not a panacea.

Hyatt is now working on a new app for teenagers, called amo, that draws on positive psychology, behavioural psychology and neuroscience. "We need to look at applying technology to help," she said. "Let's not move deckchairs around on the Titantic – let's address the big numbers."

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