Friday, December 22, 2017

Bliss Initial Analysis

An important part of our mission is to make sure the programs we create are helping people improve their mental health. There are two ways to measure this, one can be qualitative,  where people can share their experience and say whether they feel the program has helped or not, which helps you understand their perception of the program. Another method is quantitatively, which aims to rigorously measure the effects of the program objectively and see whether there is actual improvement in people's mental health after using the program. For us this second measure is our main measure for capturing the effectiveness of our programs, but we also would love hear about your experience so feel free to email it us and share your feedback.

In our relaunch article, we mentioned that we were excited about the initial results of the program and it's effectiveness, and we'll share some of those details at a later date. Today is that day and we'd like to share some of those results. First we will discuss some background on the program, what measures were used, and how the analysis was preformed.

Currently we offer a free online therapy for depression program, this program teaches user skills and strategies for overcoming depression and is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Each week there is a new lesson on techniques that can improve people's mental health, but prior to the lesson we measure people's mood using a scientifically developed depression scaled called the CES-D. There is a minimum of 7 days between each measure, since each lesson becomes available one week after completing the previous session.

The data is anonymized and then cleaned up. To measure change in mood at least two pieces of data is required, in addition, the program is concerned with helping those exhibiting depressed mood, so data is further cleaned up by selecting sets that meet this threshold at begining of the program as defined by the depression scale.

To analyze the data a t-test analysis is performed on the initial mood score and the final mood score available. An initial analysis was performed in similar fashion between the first and second mood scores. Both analysis showed improvement in mood scores, more important the changes were statistically significant and had a p-value of < 0.05. The initial test between first and second mood scores had a t-value of 2.32043. The p-value of .024614. The initial and final mood score test had even more significant results with a t-value of 2.81558. The p-value of .007043. The box plot below captures the results of this second test.

These are very preliminary results with limited datasets, and has been only analyzed internally so further analysis using different statistical tests, more data, and outside validation would help further establish these results. 

Overall we are very encouraged by these results and looking to continue analyzing the effectiveness of our program. More importantly we are excited that the trend of these results support our mission to help people around the world improve their mental health.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In memory of Gord Downie - Depression Suite - Are you going through something?

Today Canada lost their music icon Gord Downie from the Tragically Hip to cancer. Everyone is celebrating his life and the great impact he had, from the Prime Minster, to musicians, activists and many Canadians that crossed paths with him during his 51 years.

Gord Downie was a great poet and we wanted to celebrate his life through his music and beautiful poetry he created during his life. A great poem has the ability to resonate with many and yet seem so intimately unique to each person.

The song we want to celebrate is Depression Suite. The song is a combination of three different songs, which is where it got it's name and it's also a favourite of contemporary Canadian poet, Tanis Rideout. As she put it best "There’s such scope to the song; how it starts in the claustrophobia of hiding in a hotel room and ends up on the wind-scoured sweep of the barrens".

Those who've experienced depression might be able to related to the first part of this song, as it seems to capture that feeling eloquently.

Starting out with:
"Under the pillow I bury my head and try to shut Chicago out"
Trying to isolate ourself and shutting everything out.

Followed by:
"are you going through something?"
As Gord is reaching out, know that there are people out there that care about you and want you to share how you are feeling with them.

"cuz I-I-I-I I am too"
That you are not alone and this experience is far too common and people can help you get out of it.

Let's celebrate his life through his music. You can enjoy the full version of the song below:

He will be missed but remembered for all that he has done for Canada.

Are you going through something? You are not alone.

Kasra Zokaei
CIMHS Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions
Founder and Executive Director

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How many people are impacted by depression worldwide?

It's October 10th and World Mental Health Day 2017 and many people are experiencing mental health challenges. It's 2017 and we still have a long way to go to address the big gap we have in supporting people with mental illness and providing the care and inclusion they need in our society.
There is still a strong stigma associated with mental health. People assume that those with mental illness are different than others or they can simply wish away their problems. People with mental health issues can feel and in fact be excluded from regular activities such as finding a job, safe places to live, or can be even be outcasted by their friends, family, or community. These misunderstandings in our society can prevent people from speaking out about their mental health challenges, so many people suffer in silence.

Beyond the personal toll that mental health takes on people's lives, it has an even greater cost to society. Depression is known to be the common cold of mental illnesses, and there are 300 Million people impact by it globally. 

The scale of the challenge is large, and the level of services and funding is limited. We need new solutions to tackle this scale of problem, which is why our mission at CIMHS is to make effective mental health services more accessible to people around the world.

One way we hope to make a dent is through with Bliss our free online therapy program for depression that we've developed over the last few years. We've taken scientifically proven techniques for improving depressed mood and created a free 8 week online therapy program that people can complete on their own. We recognize the major barrier with stigma for seeking help, so people can complete the program anonymously.

Our hope is that once people realize what a therapy program is all about, they are more inclined to seek additional needed help to get back to their healthy selves.

Kasra Zokaei
CIMHS Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, September 30, 2017

New CIMHS launched!

I'm excited to announce the launch of the new CIMHS website. It has been four years since the launch of the original CIMHS and our free online therapy program for depression. A lot has changed since then and it was time to update CIMHS this year, and we did!

Our main goal is to make effective mental health services accessible to people around the world. This update couldn't be more aligned with that goal. We made the site more accessible, secure, and I have some exciting info regarding it's effectiveness, which I will cover in a later post.

The biggest update to the site is making it accessible through mobile. Just like other sites the majority of traffic that we could generate to the site was coming from mobile, and unfortunately the site wasn't optimized for mobile creating a major accessibility challenge. The new site is fully responsive and you can complete the entire program through your phone!
CIMHS on Mobile
CIMHS on Mobile

Another major change throughout the site is the implementation of HTTPS, that sounds a bit technical. All it means is that the site is now even more secure, information being passed throughout the site is encrypted. You will notice a lock symbol next to the websites name in your browsers. The lock will look different based on your browsers, here's how it looks like on the latest version of chrome:


Final major update is the addition of interactive worksheets. Prior to this update the worksheets were a PDF document that you could download and print to complete. Now we have added interactive worksheets, where you can complete the worksheets online within the program. The worksheets also works on mobile, so you can easily complete your weekly assignments on the go from your phone.

CIMHS Interactive Worksheets

A lot of work has gone into this new CIMHS update, some visible, others under the hood, to improve the overall experience of the program. Here's a more exhaustive list of these updates including the major ones above:
  1. Mobile - new responsive site build for all screen formats from desktop to tablet and mobile
  2. Design - brand new look and feel for the website and updated graphics
  3. Security - enhanced security with the addition of https across the site.
  4. Worksheets - new interactive worksheet forms that can be completed online 
  5. Homepage - brand new homepage with more robust information and graphics
  6. Upgrades - major platform upgrades under the hood to take advantage of latest tech
  7. Scalability - infrastructure changes that enable the site to scale 
We are very excited about the new site and the potential for reaching more people on the devices they use everyday. More importantly we are excited about the results we've seen from the use of this product, but that information is worthy of it's own post, so for now just wanted to focus on sharing the news about our major product milestone.

There are many people dealing with depression that don't seek help due to stigma or accessibility issues. These are people in your network of friends and family. Please help us reach them by helping spread the word about our free online therapy program for depression by sharing our post and our website.

Kasra Zokaei
CIMHS Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions
Founder and Executive Director

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week One Update: CIMHS Successful Soft Launch

It has been a crazy week since we launched CIMHS last Sunday. I thought I'd write a quick blog to share some of the exciting developments.

We had a successful soft launch, spread the word through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more importantly talking to people directly about it. Now a majority of people we know are aware of this initiative, and started to chip in. From reporting bugs to helping spread the message to an even wider audience. Thanks to Boby, one of my old University of Waterloo computer science profs Jeremy,  and our own team, we caught a few issues and resolved them right away.

Our cause is resonating with people! We started getting attention from people I've never met. They started sharing and liking our comments, and helping us reach a broader audience. I want to thank Geeta, Jason, Rob for posting their own personal messages about our launch. Another friend offered to help us make two very important connections as we try to reach more people, and we are now actively talking to these parties (more to come on this later!)

People are using our product in a meaningful way. When building any new product there is a lot of uncertainty around how and if it will be used. I'm happy to see that we are getting a healthy sign-up rate and more importantly people are spending time completing Bliss our therapy program for depressed mood. In this day and age it is a challenge getting people's attention for 30 seconds, but people are spending a a good 30 minutes and sometimes more completing our first therapy session.

I want to thank our awesome team with helping get the word out and creating a successful soft launch. This is a direct result of their work sharing and shamelessly plugging CIMHS in every way they could, Julie, Sara, Josh, Sam, Mojib, Grant, you guys are all awesome. Special shout out to Julie for the amount of coverage she got us, and helping us make new connections.

So what's next? We launched our official facebook page today, so please take the time to pay it visit and like our page. Help us spread the message, we don't have a big marketing budget, so any like/post/share or conversation you have with anyone about CIMHS helps us greatly!

Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far! Please keep the feedback coming, and we are always looking for people to help, so if you are interested in helping out please reach out to me!


Kasra Zokaei
Founder and Executive Director

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World Suicide Prevention Day 2013

WSPD 2013
Today marks the 2013 World Suicide Prevention Day, so I thought the best way to commemorate this day is to raise some awareness around this topic.

Here are a few important information to know about suicide worldwide:

  • 5% of the global population is estimated to attempt suicide in their life time
  • 1 million people are estimated to commit suicide each year (That's 1 in every 40 seconds)

Mental Illness, such as depression, can lead to suicide. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death among our youth (15-24) in Canada.

These are tragic numbers considering suicide is something that we can prevent. As the theme of this year states, "Stigma is one of the major barriers to suicide prevention." The treatments are out there, but stigma prevents them from seeking treatment.

One of the main goals of designing our therapy programs at CIMHS was to combat the stigma that exists in our society. That's why we designed our Bliss Depression Therapy program to be confidential, so even if people are reluctant to seek help they can still get the crucial information they need anonymously to combat their depressed mood.

Please take time some time today to remember those we lost due to suicide and do your part for spreading some awareness around this debilitating issue in our society.

Below is the official president's message from the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the organization that organized "World Suicide Prevention Day" in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO):


Kasra Zokaei
Founder and Executive Director

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Writing a New Chapter in the Mental Health Movement

It's Kasra here, and I'm super excited to finally share our online therapy solutions with with you all, but first a little bit of a background on why we created this solution.

Our society has made significant leaps in our understanding of mental health over the last century. We have gone from a very limited and bleak view of mental illness to classifying and treating mental disorders. As our understanding grew, the face of mental health changed. The most visible people with mental illness are the ones that are most severely affected by it, but we know that there are a many people suffering in silence. They are our family members, friends, and colleagues.

Old Face of Mental Illness
How people perceived mental illness as
depicted by Francisco Goya's 1824 painting 
New Face of Mental Health
Jim Carry famous Canadian comedian
actor has publicly battled with depression

In fact 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime. We are dealing with a problem of unprecedented scope and our current model of mental health service delivery does not have the capacity to help all those in need. There are shortages of trained professionals, there is local disparity in availability of services, getting help can be quite costly, and there is still a lot of stigma associated with seeking help.

How do you make mental health services accessible to more people?

To solve this problem we need to innovate and introduce a new approach for helping people achieve mental health. We need a solution that can be delivered to the masses, a solution that allows people to seek help regardless of the stigma we have today, a solution where cost is a not a barrier for people, a solution that can be accessed from anywhere.

Luckily the technology for such solution already exists. I don’t mean technology in a narrow sense of digital technology, although that is part of the solution. I mean it in a broader sense, the application of scientific knowledge for a practical purpose, in this case improving mental health. When it comes to mental health the body of scientific knowledge is called clinical psychology. Psychologist in this field have been developing and validating treatments for decades now, and more recently shown that you can effectively use computers to deliver psychotherapy.

Great! so we know we can effectively deliver therapy through computers, and we know internet is a great way to deliver applications to the masses. So, if you can adapt the psychotherapies for an online environment you can deliver psychotherapy to many people, at a lower cost, they can remain anonymous, and they can access it from anywhere anytime!

With the help and support of a few friends I set out to build and deliver this solution. It was a tall order, after reviewing a lot of academic research, writing an entire therapy manual adapted for an online environment, building and configuring the website, setting up a non-profit organization and two and half years later, we are ready to share the fruits of our labour with you!

We call it Interactive Therapy (also known as Computer-Assisted Therapy), it's a therapy program delivered online that you can complete on your own. You go through a series of sessions and each session teaches you important techniques that have been shown to help people improve their mental health. Our first program is called “Bliss”, an 8 session long therapy program for depressed mood, and we are offering it completely free at this time.

The program is offered through the website of the Not-for-profit organization we setup, called CIMHS. It stands for “Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions”, I know it’s a mouthful but most not-for-profit names are, so just use the acronym, CIMHS. We strongly believe that such technology should be owned by everyone and that’s why we picked a not-for profit structure, and we plan on operating it as a social business.

The next chapter of the Mental Health Movement is about empowering individuals through technology, and providing them with the tools that can help them improve their mental health. To that end we have created CIMHS and built our first program Bliss. This is just a beginning and there is a lot more work left to do, so join our cause and help us write the next chapter of the Mental Health Movement.

You can help by volunteering your time, helping us spread the message, and using our program.

I want to thank Sara, Julie, and Josh for all their help with getting this setup, and numerous other friends and family members for their support and excitement as they cheered us on.

We are so excited to finally share this with you! Hope you enjoy it and we are looking forward to your feedback.

So please head over to the site and let us know what you think.


Kasra Zokaei
Founder and Executive Director