This Wristband Tracks Your Mental Health Stressors, And Helps You Manage Them

"... some of the treatments can actually come out of the doctor’s office, thus making them accessible to more people."

It's likely you, or someone you know, has experienced a mental health condition before. After all, one in four people in the world are affected at some point in their lives, according to World Health Organization. But even with 450 million people currently living with some mental health issue, there is still stigma associated that leaves many people too ashamed to even seek help.  

One woman, named Maryam Jahed, learned this firsthand when she witnessed her friend's suicide attempt in 2009 — an experience that prompted Jahed to reassess how she looks at life. As her friend struggled to get the treatment they needed, Jahed recognized that, despite the increased awareness surrounding mental health, the care services available left much to be desired. 

"The barriers she had to go through to get help were unbelievable," Jahed told A Plus. "I took so much for granted that I learned to be grateful for. And now, I have made it my life's missions to break the barriers to get mental health care as it should be in 2018."

Now, as the founder of Airo Health, Jahed's holding fast to her mission by introducing a wristband that helps users monitor and manage their reactions to daily stressors in an effort to reduce and eliminate mental health issues that may arise. The Airo wristband works by tracking users' autonomic nervous system, also known as their sympathetic and parasympathetic response. As soon as the wristband detects an uptick in users' sympathetic nervous system — often referred to as "flight or fight" response — it'll vibrate gently, making users aware of their triggers and encouraging them to practice some coping strategies.

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Courtesy of Airo Health

"Airo tracks your nervous system by measuring your Heart Rate Variability (HRV)," Jahed explained. "Not to be confused with Heart Rate, HRV is actually the amount of time between two heartbeats. Most people think that if your heart rate is 60 beats per minute, you have one beat per second. In reality, a beat might be 700 milliseconds long and another might be 1.2 seconds long. By measuring the amount of time between beats we have a pretty good idea of which nervous system is firing."

When the Airo wristband vibrates, users can then take one of two approaches. Those who are already seeing a therapist are encouraged to tap into the coping mechanisms they've likely already learned, as they are probably familiar with which techniques work best to quell their anxiety. Those who are new to these strategies should use the Airo app, which syncs with the wristband, providing users with a built-in care plan that'll guide them through the therapeutic process. 

Airo's AI will learn how the user's body reacts and suggest coping mechanisms that are known to work best. For instance, Airo makes it easy for users to journal about their feelings in the moment, and offers guided breathing techniques to calm their nerves. Overall, Airo — and its accompanying app — helps users build self-awareness; manage anxiety; build resiliency through personalized care plans; and educate, care, and comfort those who feel alone on their journey.

"Airo gives people back the control of their lives," Jahed noted. "After using Airo, families start to gain a deeper understanding of their loved one's condition. This newfound empathy builds more support and trust, which are very important to the user who also has to deal with anxiety. Folks with mental illness usually find themselves at the mercy of their condition. The cool thing about Airo is that it vibrates when an episode is in its early stages and helps the person come back to their normal, thereby completely bypassing what could have been a severe mental health episode."

While Airo's currently in the final stages of beta-testing now, the product will be available commercially by the end of this summer. Jahed highlighted that, of those beta-testers, however, three different users realized that going to their in-laws stressed them out even after 4-5 years of marriage. They thought they'd learned to manage their nerves, but Airo told another story. Upon reflection, all three discovered that they were trying to live up to perceived expectations and this stressed them subconsciously.

Maryam Jahed, founder of Airo Health Courtesy of Airo Health

With such discoveries in mind, Jahed hopes Airo will help break the stigma attached "because mental health is health." 

"It's not that now is the right time, but it is that the urgency to address it has increased because of the downstream risk it poses," Jahed explained. "If they don't address those suffering from mild to moderate anxiety right now, it is highly likely that it will increase in severity. If we look alone from the dollar standpoint, did you know that mental health is the biggest bill to the U.S. healthcare system? As a country, America spent 1.5 more times on mental health than they did on diabetes, or heart disease, or cancer! And this is increasing by $6 to $10 Billion every single year. As incredible as that sounds, it shows in numbers why addressing mental health is urgent." 

Courtesy of Airo Health

"With Airo, we hope to normalize the conversation and increase accessibility," Jahed added. "We think the conversation primarily has two sides to it: that of the user and that of the loved one. Each side is filled with so much confusion about the other that it only breeds more confusion, which fuels the stigma. We are working hard to address both sides. In fact, Airo comes with an app where the loved one, after consent, of course, can see the stress levels of the user." 

Jahed notes that many mental health treatments are based on behavior change, not pharmaceuticals, which means that some of the treatments can actually come out of the doctor's office, thereby making them accessible to more people — and that's exactly what Airo Health plans to do.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health issues, there are a number of additional resources available to provide support. Check them out here.

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