Understanding Depression with Project Chéria

Understanding Depression with Project Chéria

Three startups have come together to pilot Project Cheria: a platform that will help us understand what depression is, its symptoms, and take actions to prevent it from escalating.

Feb 24, 2022
By Alix Mitchner
coffee with a sad facecoffee with a sad face

Depression on the rise

As COVID-19’s persistent spread across the world continues, considerable fear, insecurity, and despair are spreading right along with it. The resulting increase in mental health issues is accentuating problems in healthcare that have existed for a long time--not the least of which is how we prevent and treat depression. Despite being a leading cause of disability worldwide affecting an alarming 280 million people, there is still much about this serious illness that we don’t yet know. This has concerning implications for the many people suffering from depression trying to access the mental health care they need in an already overwhelmed system. 

Project Chéria: Using technology for mental health

Three startups--Labfront, CalmCollective and ThoughtFull-- are trying to change the current ecosystem by coming together to pilot Project Cheria: a groundbreaking community-driven initiative that will help provide a deeper understanding of depression, including its symptoms and how to take actions to prevent it from escalating. 

Project Cheria brings together the power of wearables and mobile therapy to deliver a novel end-to-end approach to mental health care. For the pilot project, 100 participants will be given a Garmin wearable device and 3 months of ThoughtFullChat one-on-one coaching with certified mental health professionals. The initiative aims to provide individuals with a proactive role in their own health and wellbeing by giving them a comprehensive view of their physiological data combined with the self-serve tools and counseling they need to take action. The insight-driven care and digital technology at the cornerstone of Project Cheria, when properly applied, may prove to be indispensable in addressing the problem of early diagnosis and treatment of depression. 

Garmin device and  mobile device with Thoughtfull interface

How can a wearable device help detect depression?

Mood is highly dynamic. A myriad of contextual information comes with it which is often challenging to capture since conventional measures rely on subjective reports. Wearables, on the other hand, are especially useful as they provide a wide amount of objective, physiological data--including activity levels, sleep and heart rate variability (HRV). Labfront synthesizes all the data you can get from wearables which can then be integrated with ThoughtFull’s self-serve tools and one-on-one coaching. In doing so, variables linked to one’s stress or depression can emerge.

One physiological variable in particular, HRV, seems to have a strong correlation with depression. Contrary to popular belief, the heart does not constantly follow the same rhythm. The time between each heartbeat should change from beat to beat. This change is called HRV and it’s helpful for analyzing the overall wellbeing of an individual on a daily basis. Studies have shown that people with major depression have lower HRV than healthy controls. Conversely, elevated or increased HRV is correlated with positive mood, positive emotional regulation, flexibility, and social engagement. 

By determining what correlations happen when one is depressed with objective data to refer to, we can hopefully prevent or anticipate when someone is going into depression. After all, isn’t it better to know when you are at risk of a depressive episode so you can do something to mitigate it?

A human-centered approach

Project Cheria utilizes some of the most modern and readily available technology to help us understand depression.  However, what truly sets this project apart is its aim to have participants become further engaged in the research of mental health in order to provide a more intelligent, human-centered perspective. Unlike other mobile app health apps,  users will have greater insight into their mental health and can leverage their own physiological markers to take action. 

The pilot seeks to make predictive mental health intervention possible, as we sharpen our understanding of depression and its symptoms. Although technology is not a replacement for medication or traditional talk therapy, it can make things more scalable for this growing crisis. Building a better mental healthcare ecosystem--from identification to management-- can save lives, so we are particularly eager to begin this program.

Last medically reviewed on
Jun 5, 2023
Alix Mitchner
Alix Mitchner
Marketing Specialist

Alix doubles as the marketing and pun specialist at Labfront. She usually operates quietly behind the scenes, but give her a karaoke mic and all bets are off.

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