By Sangeeta Waldron — Our societies need thriving young people - children and young adults who want and are able to positively shape the world around them. They need opportunities to develop as people and citizens, to create their own path and a positive personal identity to develop empathy so they can live and contribute alongside others.
The students in Years 7 to Sixth Form from Woolwich Polytechnic had that opportunity! They recently took part in an annual hackathon challenge from Lloyds Banking Group to produce digitally-based ideas to help their local community tackle mental health problems. The initiative, with the support of Cisco Innovation Labs, saw 30 students from the school address the challenging topic of how digital technology can support mental health and wellbeing.
The hackathon challenge was in support of the Group’s partnership with Mental Health UK. The two-year charity partnership aims to promote awareness of the link between mental health and money problems, encourage discussion between customers and colleagues and raise at least £2 million per year to launch a pioneering Mental Health and Money Advice Service.
In the UK, one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year and in England, one in six report experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression.
While the overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, the worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope. What is clear, is that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse, as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.
Based on this mental health knowledge, the students were asked to develop digitally based ideas that would make a real difference to people locally.
The students were spilt into four teams that worked together to create a competitive pitch, which were independently judged in a Dragon’s Den-style presentation at Lloyds Banking Group headquarters. All of the pitches were to a high standard with sophisticated solutions, but the Lloyds Banking Group Dragons thought the winning idea was an information and social support app that focuses on providing those experiencing poor mental health with expert advice and guidance. The app by the winning team, Universal Aid, does this through interactive content and through engagement with both professional services and a community of people who have endured similar problems, including celebrity endorsement.
Lloyds found all the ideas put forward to be mature and of a high quality. The Innovation Labs have allowed the students to showcase how digital transformation and the Internet of Things can improve mental health in their community.
This hackathon challenge is not just a solid example of how technology is triggering social change, but it also reflects a growing trend: collective citizen impact where citizens, particularly students, are hacking socio-economic problems — whether local, regional or global.
Photo Credit: Lloyd's Bank