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Are You Really OK? Your Heart May Say Otherwise.

May got everyone talking about mental health, but tips for tackling hidden emotions were often left unsaid.
June 01, 2021

Written by Anna Wdowczyk | Graphics by Sabrina Thomason

Featuring DFZ Startup Track Member Adam Kingsmith, external link, Co-founder of EiQ Technologies, external link

*Content Warning: mild reference to suicide statistics.

Mental Health and Start-Up Culture Illustration

“I can’t submit this assignment because I’m having an anxiety attack” has become a popular phrase among today’s youth. According to PhD candidate Adam Kingsmith, external link, students are requesting extensions amid mental health crises at faster rates than ever. With over seven years of classroom experience under his belt, Kingsmith’s first-hand exposure guides him to believe society is yearning for better emotional awareness.

Unfortunately, the solution is no easy feat. Kingsmith’s observations show many people simply don’t know how to spot red flags in triggering environments. Instead, he says they often go about their days as usual—until they’re forced to stop once they arrive at a full-fledged mental breakdown.

Kingsmith’s concerns about the mental health pandemic are only amplified by shockingly high suicide reports. Research highlights from the Canadian Association of of Mental Health (CAMH), external link, opens in new window reveal roughly 11 Canadians die by suicide in a typical day. When looking at younger demographics that resemble many of Kingsmith’s students (ages 15 to 24), suicide rates account for the second highest death tolls.

“We live in a society that believes itself to be very emotionless. We make rational choices and rational decisions, but obviously our society is actually very emotional,” Kingsmith says.

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, external link, opens in new window, Kingsmith has been sharing his expertise at several panel talks. However, he admits this idea of emotional dysregulation1 is often left untouched by fellow speakers.

To raise representation for an issue that’s widely overlooked, Kingsmith spearheaded EiQ Technologies, external link, opens in new window: a start-up that creates wearables for tracking emotional states with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Alongside co-founders Will Jaques and Julian von Bargen, Kingsmith relies on research-based insights to incubate his business at the Design Fabrication Zone (DFZ), opens in new window

 

Heartfelt - Version 1

Dubbed as the Heartfelt, EiQ’s wearable device leverages machine learning technology to compute heart rate variability in real-time. Once the numbers are ready, users can glean their results from a visual dashboard that shows their emotional responses. To draw meaningful takeaways, consumers are encouraged to contextualize their trigger patterns with their physical environments throughout the day.

“We really want to revolutionize how we think about the relationship between emotions, machine learning and artificial intelligence,” says Kingsmith. However, navigating ethical and inclusive practices is a major hurdle when it comes to re-imagining accessible mental health support.

According to Valerie Borum, a director of the School of Social Work at this university, establishing the right mental health or disability support is “culturally bound.” She adds, “What's considered healthy in one community may not necessarily be considered healthy in another.”

On the other hand, Borum’s professional research shows mental health workers seem to hold the opposite view. “There's a focus on individualism,” she says and white able-bodied ideals are commonly pegged as the golden standard. 

In the medical field internal biases can be powerful enough to inspire inaccurate diagnoses. For example, Borum points out African American patients who seek mental help are often misdiagnosed, or their "healthy cultural paranoia" from living in a white-dominated society is misunderstood.


Conscious of these medical stereotypes, Kingsmith and his co-founders have created their own algorithms. Rather than centering white heterosexual experiences as the norm, Kingsmith says he prioritizes accounting for diverse community-based experiences to ensure all users have access to equitable supports.

Aside from being culturally savvy, EiQ Technologies aims to provide an accessible, low cost service by using open source software to the max. When devices start rolling out, Kingsmith says clients will be able to access one of two cost efficient versions: a free version or a premium service at a rate of $2.00 per month.

Overall, Kingsmith champions the DFZ for offering an “invaluable” network. The Startup Track incubation process has provided his social science-based team with a much needed business crash course. This gave EiQ Technologies the necessary foundation and “knowledge mobilization” for building out a sustainable company from scratch.

When looking for future guidance, Kingsmith aspires to enhance his entrepreneurial talent by meeting more investors who have the capacity to turn his big visions into reality. “Our goal is to really put the human back into artificial intelligence,” Kingsmith says. “We really want to re-emphasize that people are an important part of technology.” 

Stay tuned for more news on EiQ Technologies, external link by keeping up to date with new stories on the DFZ site or by following the company directly on Twitter, external link, Instagram, external link and their website, external link. Since mental health is so much more than a month-long affair, we also challenge you to honour awareness efforts all year round. Let’s keep the conversation going.

 dysregulation, as defined by the American Psychological Association, external link (APA): 

n. any excessive or otherwise poorly managed mechanism or response. For example, emotional dysregulation is an extreme or inappropriate emotional response to a situation... [definition continues here on the APA website], external link

Contributors

Anna Wdowczyk Headshot

Anna

Wdowczyk

Anna, opens in new window is a Business & Technology Writer/Researcher at the DFZ. Aside from writing about emerging trends in the business world, Anna enjoys studying journalism at Ryerson University and she holds a Certificate in Content Marketing from The School of The New York Times.

 

 

Sabrina Thomason - Headshot

Sabrina

Thomason 

Sabrina, external link, opens in new window is the Marketing and Community Ambassador at the DFZ. Outside producing the multi-media components for the DFZ blog and social platform she is entering into her last year at the Ryerson School of Interior Design. Sabrina has a particular interest in thinking through making and exploring the world of design through up-cycling.