Mental Health

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Mental well-being took center stage at CES 2019

This week, the Las Vegas Convention Center was packed with many of the year’s biggest new devices. But over the last several years, The Sands has become the place where the real magic happens. The segment of the show known as Eureka Park is where the startups and accelerators congregate, often times showing off products that are still years away.

A quick walk around the floor (insofar as someone can walk quickly with that much humanity slowly shuffling through the halls) sheds a lot of light on the industry’s biggest trends. Plenty are holdovers from previous years — smart home and wearables continue to dominate —  but others offer insight into where the next several years of technology may be going.

One key trend that absolutely exploded this past year is mental well-being. Between the sleep, relaxation, concentration and meditation products on display, you couldn’t walk five feet without encountering another pitch. The list includes some familiar faces (to us, at least) like the Muse meditation and sleep headsets and a whole slew of new entrants.

The trajectory tracks if you consider many of these products a kind of extension of the fitness trackers that were all the rage a few years back. First startups pushed to keep our bodies in shape, moving on to sleep tracking and, eventually, our minds. The accessibility of sensors that can track things like basic brain activity have helped push the concept along.

It’s a worthy cause, of course. The proliferation of many technologies has done some pretty rough stuff to our bodies and brains over the years. Wouldn’t it be great if tech could also turn that around.

In many cases, the use is clear. Decades of scientific studies have demonstrated the value simply sitting quietly during meditation practice can have on your stress levels and mental health. If a product can help you get into a routine, great. But there’s an even larger opportunity for snake oil salespeople than we saw on the fitness side.

Certainly the FDA has a role to play, ensuring that companies can’t make untested medical claims for their products, but much of the burden here will ultimately be placed on journalist and consumer alike. When it comes to this category, the placebo effect is very real.

Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best opens up about the real effects of intense backlash

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Sometimes people don’t realise that hating on a fictional character can have repercussions, particularly on the real human being playing the part.

Reminding us of this is actor Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars franchise, and who opened up about his experience with intense backlash on Tuesday.

Binks, the friendly Gungan, made his debut in 1999’s Episode 1, The Phantom Menace, with a smaller role in Attack of the Clones, and a brief cameo in Revenge of the Sith.

But although some adored Jar Jar, the character was quickly swept up in wave of audience and media criticism, eventually becoming one of the most railed-on characters in Star Wars history. Read more…

More about Mental Health, Suicide, Jar Jar Binks, The Phantom Menace, and Ahmed Best

Text to Save Lives – Crisis Text Line Needs YOU!

Twice in my life I tried seeking help when I was feeling suicidal: once from an in-person counselor, and once from a phone based hotline. Both services failed to provide the support I needed, and I left the experience feeling just as bad, if not worse. Thanks to mobile technology and one great idea, we now have another option — Crisis Text Line — and they need volunteers who can text, particularly late at night, since peak crisis hours are between 8pm and 4am.

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Finding your chill in VR is easy when you can meditate on Mars

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Currently, most of the virtual reality developer brainpower is being directed toward creating amazingly immersive games (and to a lesser extent, film and non-gaming interactive experiences). But when you just want to kick back and find your chill, the options in VR are surprisingly limited. 

That said, I think I’ve found the best of the bunch. 

My parameters were simple. I wanted something you could use on a high-end VR headset (not mobile), the logic being that when I meditate I want to be in a safe space, where I don’t have to think about pedestrians, airplanes or any other interruptions while trying to relax. Read more…

More about Spirituality, Mental Health, Gear Vr, Samsung Gear Vr, and Htc Vive

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Forever alone: Why too much social media use might lead to loneliness

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The more time you spend staring at your smartphone — scrolling through Facebook, trolling on Twitter, snapping on Snapchat — the lonelier you’re prone to feel, researchers say.

A national study on young adults found that frequent use of social media might be associated with increased feelings of isolation. As anyone with FOMO knows, watching other people’s digital lives is an imperfect substitute for real-world interactions.

“We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together,” said Brian Primack, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh.  Read more…

More about Psychology, Mental Health, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter

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What a teen's recent livestreamed suicide reveals about mental health and social media

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On Dec. 30, Katelyn Nicole Davis turned on the livestreaming app Live.me at her home in Cedartown, Georgia, and broadcast her own suicide.

As that video spread across the internet and social media, it demonstrated how quickly technology can turn casual spectators into traumatized witnesses. The video also left those who encountered it online or through news reports wondering what would drive a young person — Davis was just 12 — to invite unsuspecting friends and strangers to watch a life vanish before their eyes. 

More about Social Media, Facebook Live, Social Good, Mental Health, and Conversations

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