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Caring, Sparc in mental health app development

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James Kadadzera

Some private sector players have joined hands to promote mental health, which they claim is sometimes neglected in Malawi.

In the latest development, Caring Hands Centre (CHC), which promotes mental health awareness and the importance of healthy mental wellbeing, has partnered Sparc Systems with the aim of addressing problems associated with mental health.

Under the agreement, CHC and Sparc Systems are in the process of developing a mobile application called Mental Lab. The application will simulate the automation of processes involved when one seeks mental health therapy.

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The app will automate the processes of awareness to individuals who are mentally disturbed or who are stressed and anxious and are seeking therapy to ease their state.

“Mental health is one of the most pressing concerns for public healthcare systems worldwide. Studies have identified mental illness as the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality across the world, which means Malawi is no exception.

“The Covid pandemic has exacerbated cases of mental health. For example, in Malawi, cases of what we would call extreme cases of mental health, notably suicide, increased by 57 percent in 2020 as a result of loss of hope in dealing with problems resulting from Covid,” said CHC Managing Director Christine Mhone.

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Malawi Police Service (MPS) statistics indicate that, in 2019, 116 people killed themselves while last year, 182 people killed themselves.

MPS spokesperson James Kadadzera appealed to people to seek counseling services when they are distressed.

Mhone said, if nothing was done to address the problem, the country would register increased rates of suicide this year, citing mental strain exerted by the third wave of coronavirus.

“Looking at the trajectory, the rates are likely to go higher [than 57 percent] in 2021. Out of these figures, a lot of men are killing themselves more than women because, out of the figures mentioned, 92 percent of people who are committing suicide are men while the remaining 8 percent are women. This is an issue of great concern to all of us,” he said.

Sparc Systems Africa acting Head of Sales and Marketing Harry Kasandala said the app would help Malawi deal with one of the emerging challenges, namely mental health problems.

“In these times of Covid, mental health issues are very serious. We, as Sparc systems, will be providing technical expertise to develop the Mental Lab App. I should say this is a complex App to develop as it will have a combination of medical informatics, third party integrations, YouTube, a blog, social media and payment gateway functionalities, all in the Mental Lab app.

It will also allow those in need of meeting a therapist to be able to book the sessions online and be able to meet the therapist either in person or online.

“The app will provide awareness by displaying videos for the subject matter, news feeds, allow self-assessment by providing self-assessment quiz, allowing the individual bookings for therapy, video conferencing and group chat, among others. Since this is an app, we have plans to scale it up to be able to deploy it across the world,” Kasandala said.

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