Sparc, Caring Hands developing mental health app

In a bid to promote mental health awareness and the importance of a healthy mental being, Caring Hands Center Limited has partnered Malawi’s leading ICT service providers Sparc Systems Limited to develop a mobile application called Mental Lab.

Mental health is one of the most pressing concerns for public healthcare systems worldwide, with studies showing it as the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality rates.

With Covid-19 pandemic amidst us, extreme cases of mental health related suicide cases increased by 57 percent in 2020 as a result of loss of hope in dealing with problems resulted from the pandemic.

According to Caring Hands Founder and Managing Director Christine Mhone, the partnership with Sparc Systems Limited to develop the application will simulate the automation of processes involved when one seeks mental health therapy.

“The app will automate the process of awareness to individuals who are mentally disturbed or who are stressed and anxious, and are seeking therapy to ease their state. It will also automate the activities involved when individuals are trying to reach out to service providers (therapists) by providing a feature that will enable them to remotely book therapy sessions,” he explained.

Mhone also revealed that the mobile app will also provide a user an interaction platform to minimize face-to-face interactions in this period of Covid-19 pandemic.

“The mobile app will also automate this process by providing a user interaction platform feature that will enable them to chat, discuss various mental health issues and interact with each other in a group format.”

“Sparc Systems Limited is developing the application from scratch unto implementation stage and they will be supporting the application when it is up and running by being responsible for all the technical requirements to do with it,” Mhone said.

In Malawi, issues to do with mental health haven’t been given a proper attention to date, a development which Mhango says has resulted into more suicide cases hence coming up with the decision to develop the application.

“Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood, adolescence through adulthood. It is an issues that a majority of people will come into contact with at some stage in their life, whether it be directly or through a friend or family member struggling with an issue but as a nation, we have overlooked this hence reporting more suicide cases and that’s is one of the many reasons why we decided to come up with this application to create an environment where people who experience mental health problems can open up and get help,” he said.

Mhone expressed hope the partnership with Sparc will encourage openness around mental health issues ranging from depression, addiction disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse.

“We will also reduce stigma around mental health. The App will not discriminate against race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation and many more. We will put special emphasis in encouraging the vulnerable and marginalized groups to use the application, which include people with albinism, people with disabilities, migrants, ex-prisoners, drug addicts and people with alcohol problems.”

“We want to achieve a healthy mental wellbeing for all and help in advancing #SDG (health goal) to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and wellbeing,” he concluded.

And speaking on behalf of Sparc Systems Limited, Head of Sales and Marketing Happy Kasandala said his company decided to partner Caring Hands Organization in these times of Covid-19 as one way of creating a conducive environment where people with mental health issues can have an opportunity to speak out and get the much needed attention.

“We all have been affected by mental health issues one way or another. We have lost loved ones, most people are struggling to put food on the table and make ends meet due to the impact of Covid-19 and many other issues. Most people are struggling thinking about how they take the next day. Most of the people end up into alcohol and illicit drug abuse or even suicide. At Sparc Systems we are happy to partner with NGOs like Caring Hands to help have a better national health wise whose people can become productive citizens of this country,” he said.

Kasandala added that the partnership, which his company will be providing technical expertise, will have a combination of medical informatics, third party integrations, YouTube, a blog, social media and payment gateway functionalities.

“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,” he added.

Mental Lab will provide awareness by displaying videos for the subject matter newsfeed, allow self-assessment by providing self-assessment quiz, allowing individual bookings for therapy, video conferencing and group chats.

Sparc Systems Limited also revealed plans to have the App available across the world.

“We expect this system to take us seven months to develop including the bank end. The prototype will be ready in the next one month where we will get feedback from Caring Hands and their partners and perfect it based on the feedback,” he concluded.

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