In recent years society has become much more open about discussing issues relating to mental health. Slogans such as ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ and campaigns such as Movember have sought to remove the stigma that is still attached to mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. The global impact of Covid-19, which saw social-distancing restrictions increase mental health worries, has only accelerated this conversation.

Despite this progress, receiving appropriate diagnosis and treatment for a mental health condition is still not easy, even in relatively well developed and affluent societies. This could all be about to change, however, due to pioneering new technology from Israel.

Israeli start-up Montfort believe their new smartphone technology could transform how mental health is diagnosed, making the process much closer to how physical ailments are identified. This technology, coined “Brain Profiler,” looks to diagnose psychiatric disorders in a more scientific fashion, rather than simply relying on a patient’s subjective descriptions of their symptoms.

Montfort already used smartphone technology and artificial intelligence in digital tests for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. Their new approach came about after collaborating with Dr Abraham Peled, department chair at Sha’ar Menashe Psychiatric Hospital and a lecturer at Technion–the Israel Institute of technology. Working with Dr Peled, Montford added new indicators to the smartphone technology which would assess common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. These new indicators, combined with AI technology, should take out much of the time and guess-work from diagnosing mental health problems.

Using this type of approach could have a huge impact. More than 6,000 people across the UK and Republic of Ireland taketheir own lives each year, while tens of thousands more attempt suicide. According to the WHO, depression could be the leading cause of global morbidity by 2030.

This breakthrough would be another example of the valuable contributions made by Technion staff. Since 1912, the academic institution has been at the forefront of spearheading Israel’s scientific endeavours. Israel today is the country with the highest percentage of scientists and engineers – and the majority of them studied at the Technion, home to three of Israel’s five science Nobel Laureates.

Alan Aziz, CEO of Technion UK, commented: “Swiftly and easily diagnosing mental health problems is a literal lifesaver. Thanks to Montfort and Technion, modern technology can shrink your shrink and put them in your smartphone.”