In the WHO China Office Fact Sheet on Depression updated in 2017, there is an estimated 1.2 million youths in China aged 15-24 years suffering from depression disorders and prevalence of depression in university students is reported to be high at 23.8% (similar figures from UK universities).
Mental challenges of the youth have been recognized in the recent studies from Europe, the U.S., and China were a fifth of all young people between 10 and 20 years old showed mental health issues. This data aligns with the experts’ account on the alarming increase in mental health problems globally among people under the age of 20.
The most common conditions such as substance-abuse related, developmental, or behavioral, if left unrecognized or untreated, can be life-threatening. As simple as feeling down can lead to anxiety or depression, or worst, thoughts of suicide. These problems can also impair students’ ability to learn.
Like many Asian cultures, the concept of the family remains very strong in China where parents are revered for their wisdom and at the same time provide utmost support to their children. Much as a lot of support is given to the children, much is expected in return in terms of academic achievement.
In China, children are exposed to the pressure of academic excellence early in life since the Chinese school system is very competitive, focused largely on results. The competitive environment that leaves the children spending many hours of schoolwork plus the pressure to excel placed by the family and society can affect one’s mental and behavioral development.
SAP Labs China and SAP Co-Innovation Lab in Shanghai recognize these challenges and are now working together with the Beijing-based startup MIITTECH and psychologists from Institute of Developmental Psychology at Beijing Normal University. The goal is to help teachers and parents discover developmental health problems early on so that the special needs of primary and middle school students can be better met.
Dr. Xiaoyi Fang, a Family Therapist and Director of the Institute of Developmental Psychology at Beijing Normal University said,
“We currently see three main kinds of mental health problems: learning problems, emotional problems, and social relationship problems.”
Dr. Fang added that the youth in China face new kinds of challenges in the form of bullying and Internet addiction. Dr. Fang is known to have devoted his career to mental health education in schools throughout China.
The role of MIITTECH in this pilot project financed by China’s Ministry of Education, with guidance from Dr. Fang, is to develop a solution that evaluates physiological data from schoolchildren. The cloud-based solution based on SAP Technology will be gathering data from three sources: online surveys, cognitive computer games, and wearable devices. Heart rate, skin conductance, and brainwaves will be measured by the devices.
The MIITTECH Mental Health Platform is deployed on SAP Cloud Platform, an open platform that stores data in the in-memory SAP HANA database.
Tao Feng, vice president of Technology at MIITTECH, believes that SAP is the best-fit software provider that would help them build and roll out the type of solution they specifically need. He said,
“We chose SAP HANA because it supports us in storing and analyzing large amounts of data.”
MIITTECH’s goal is to reach 5 million students in 20 of China’s provinces by the end of 2019 alongside with its plan of applying machine learning to improve survey data evaluation for teachers to address students’ needs more precisely.
“With more research, I’m convinced the technology can identify developmental problems more accurately than paper-based surveys can today,” Dr. Fang stressed.
He trusts that the solution will achieve its goal in helping teachers recognize and address developmental problems the youth are facing today.
This co-innovation project reinforces SAP’s commitment to the United Nations (UN) Global Goal #3 “Good Health and Well-Being.”