Mental Health Coding Challenge

 

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Nick Watton a Senior Web Developer at AmazeRealise shares the work from one of our recent internal coding competitions based around Mental Health. 

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The Challenge

Here in the Edinburgh AmazeRealise web development team we have a tradition of short challenges that give a focus to learn a new technology or respond to a theme through creative code.

I was asked to lead the first challenge of 2018 and thought I would celebrate four years with my super supportive team by presenting what I had a feeling might be a really tricky brief: the Mental Health Coding Skills Challenge, a technology agnostic chance to explore mental health.

Over twenty years ago I experienced manic depression. With few exceptions I had not discussed this openly, and certainly not within a work context: I thought I might be judged. That it might affect my career prospects. And maybe, because I was ashamed. However, upon opening up to a member of my team I realised that others often suffered in silence too, I felt it was time to share my story and hopefully start a conversation about mental health within the team.

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We had a great showing for the Coding Skills Challenge with interactive visualisations, mindfulness and breathing/relaxation tools, plus personal stories rendered with 3D chiaroscuro or particle animation. Below I’ve shared our work from the team. 

The entries

Bee. Much like a pensieve, EmoBlobs is an interactive interface which allows the user to visualise the thoughts and feelings buzzing around their brain. And pop them.

David developed Calming Moment, “a web interface intended to help you reach a peaceful state of mind with as little effort as possible”.

Emma brought us Random Acts of Kindness. A charming Chrome web extension which provokes you to connect with others and spread positive thoughts and actions.

Joe used Blender to recreate the emotional space he experienced during his experience with depression, and talked us through his story.

Laurence assured us “it's good to get concerns and issues off your chest.”  ClearStorm is a visualisation tool to help you do just that.

 

I made Breath with me, a particle animation attempting to share something of the kinetic qualities of my own mad story.

 

What a presentation meeting.

(Terror in my chest.) Silence. Laughter. A tear or two.

Then there was voting. Extremely close results and two joint winners.

And the truth is, the whole team won. We gained understanding and grew a little closer. We saw how mental illness can be reframed as mental health. For whilst mental illness can sound scary (some of it is), we talked about how it is more scary for those too scared to share a problem with friends. And how talking and sharing can lead to better outcomes both for those suffering and everyone else who can see that the mental health monster generally isn’t as scary as they might have thought.

 
Nick Watton