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Disrupting mental health with big data


Posted on October 12, 2016

4 min read

Yes, that’s an unapologetically clichéd headline. But then, if there is one thing we’re good at here at Spur Projects, it’s knowing how to grab attention. We’ve been doing that, in the name of changing the culture around mental health, since 2011.

When we heard the facts that six Australian men will take their own life each day in Australia, we decided to do something about it. Soften the Fck Up, the controversial, award-winning and — as we’ve been told by more than a few people — life-saving campaign was born soon afterwards.

When we launched it was an intentionally abrupt and challenging call to Australian men to reject all that they had been told about ‘hardening the f — — up’ and ‘toughening the f — — up’. We reminded them that they could be strong men and also open up about their feelings. That they could, without prejudice, seek help when they needed it.

At Spur Projects we have a habit of doing big things with little budget. So much so, we had to get clever about how we were going to change the world, if we wanted to make a big impact.

Which meant we had to be smarter and know more about mental health. We had to leverage our skills with creative, fun campaigns and digital solutions.

So of course, as one tends to do, we built an app.

On October 10, 2016, we launched How is the World Feeling? — a world first, real time mental health survey. Using a smartphone app, we’ll be gathering data from participants all over the world. Users will be prompted to log their emotions over the course of the week, including listing their current activity. A geo-tag and time stamp will tell us where this emotion came from.

It sounds like a simple idea. But we really think it could change the world.

What if you knew which city in Australia was most at risk of depression? What if you knew the exact demographic that was most in need and when? Like a company marketing their product to a set demographic on Facebook, mental health services could be better informed, more targeted to areas and timeframe. More cost effective.

Actually, why stop there? The applications of this data are huge. For instance, say you’re working to improve the happiness of your city as a town planner, how does the average local commute compare in terms of anxiety and anger to that of say, San Francisco? Or Hobart?

(Fun fact: our 2014 pilot project, How is Australia Feeling? indicated Hobart had the least enjoyable commute in the country with the highest reported ‘negative’ emotions associated with getting to work).

Not only will participants get to see how their emotions change over the course of the week the campaign is live, but they can see the compiled emotions of their neighbourhood, city or country.

As someone with experience of depression can attest to — it’s a powerful thing to know that you’re not the only one that feels feelings.

And the best part?

While users are anonymous, all of the big data will be compiled and available online in a free, open source database. The world’s first index of emotion.

There’s a lot you could do, if you know how the world is feeling.

So – join us this week in disrupting mental health with big data.

To take part, visit or download the app now on the App Store or Google Play by searching “How is the World Feeling?”


Be part of something big: 10-16 October, 2016

Want to be part of the world’s largest real-time mental health survey? Download How is the World Feeling from App Store or Google Play today and simply ‘check-in’ when prompted on how you’re feeling throughout the week. Created by Telstra Foundation Ambassadors Spur Projects, the app aims to improve mental health in two ways. One, by making participants more aware of their own feelings and emotions and two, facilitating positive action if changes need to be made. Find out more at


About Spur Projects

Telstra Foundation Ambassadors Spur Projects bring to life the concept of tech-for-good. An evolving idea, Spur Projects believe that to tackle the rate of suicide amongst men in Australia, bold new approaches to suicide prevention are required. The organisation produce a wide range of innovative mental health projects that give men the resources, skills and language they need in order to take positive action for their mental health.