TURNING ADVERSITY INTO OPPORTUNITY
Aidan Scott is an advocate for youth mental health and the founder of Speakbox, a digital health tool that helps individuals manage their mental health.
As a teenager, Aidan suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was living with nightmares, anxiety attacks and even dissociation stemming from years of physical and psychological abuse. He found it hard to open up to others about his feelings, so he turned to the one place where he felt most comfortable: an online community. Sharing with others in the digital realm enabled Aidan to no longer feel alone and to find the support and understanding he so desperately needed for most of his teenage years.
“That first step to opening up was digital for me, because it was comfortable,” he says. “It allowed me to think about what I wanted to say without having anyone pressure me into explaining why I’m feeling what I’m feeling because I didn’t have those answers.”
Aidan’s experience of finding his voice within the digital world helped him realize the positive values of social media. But more so, it inspired him to use his experience to forge a career in youth mental health advocacy.
HARNESSING THE POWER OF THE DIGITAL COMMUNITY
Aidan believes that the digital world and tools like social media have the power to positively affect mental health, allowing like-minded Canadians to form communities with real-time peer support that extends outside of their health care practitioners’ work hours.
“Finding digital communities in my personal journey was a huge inspiration for Speakbox,” he says. “Now, it's a place where you can make better health decisions, take healthy actions, and lead a better, more fulfilling life because of the information you have access to.”
Speakbox is a first-of-its-kind digital mental health service that combines online peer support, secure digital journaling, and access to a library of evidence-based activities that help users manage their mental health with physician-approved tactics.
“On average, most of us spend about 15 minutes per visit with our doctors, and if we’re lucky, 50 minutes with a psychologist, which most Canadians can't afford,” he says. “There is a massive need for change within the mental health landscape and it goes beyond just being able to schedule an appointment with your clinician.”
Aidan recognizes the tremendous benefits of using digital tools to access patient records and other health information outside of a clinician’s practice.
“Digital apps like Speakbox will help Canadians have access to the knowledge, compassion and empathy our health care practitioners provide beyond their 9-5 schedules. We need to make people feel empowered to actually take steps forward on their own and to self-manage when it comes to their mental health.”
REVOLUTIONIZING THE MENTAL HEALTH LANDSCAPE
In April 2019, Speakbox improved collaboration between users and their health care teams by expanding its services from an online portal into an app that is user controlled, with expansion plans to allow for information sharing.
This will encourage an open channel of communication, allowing individuals to challenge the way the current health system deals with mental health challenges. The app will result in more effective mental health management for patients and their care teams, highlighting the significance of digital health innovation through all health care verticals.
“Sharing data — with guidance, coaching and smart technology to back it — can be life-changing,” he adds. “We have the ability to give users the tools they need to cope in real time, within the reach of their pocket, and when there is no one else there to offer similar support.”
SETTING THE STAGE FOR DIGITAL HEALTH CARE
The partnership between Speakbox and ACCESS 2022 highlights the importance of digital health technology.
“It's an honour for us to join the ACCESS 2022 movement,” says Aidan. “Speakbox emerged from a labour of love into a team that’s building something really exciting but we recognize that we need more support.”
He hopes aligning with ACCESS 2022 will equip Speakbox with a voice among broader health industry players and allow for more conversation around open technology in the hands of all Canadians.
“ACCESS 2022 is actually creating the opportunity for digital health companies to work together and support one another’s products,” he says. “It’s ensuring that as we advance in digital health, the technologies we create remain available to all Canadians.”