Can AI and Emerging Technologies Expedite Mental Health Care Transformation?

Can AI and Emerging Technologies Expedite Mental Health Care Transformation?
Mental Health Awareness
We are Pacific

The William Templeton Foundation for Young People’s Mental Health (YPMH) is a charitable foundation working to improve the lives of young people by facilitating innovative approaches to resolve mental health conditions. It has been set up in memory of Will Templeton, by his parents Anne and Peter, and his brother John, one of our colleagues.

As a company deeply committed to advocating for mental well-being, Pacific International frequently engages with senior-level industry leaders to produce content that emphasizes the significance of mental health. Today, Margaret Jaouadi sits down with Peter Templeton, one of the founders of YPMH charity, not only to showcase the foundation’s impactful work but also to provide valuable insights into the complexities of mental health. Crucially, our conversation aims to educate our audience on practical steps they can take to foster good mental health habits.

YPMH produced this handy booklet “Depression – It’s really not all in the mind” to help explain why and how depression develops in children and young people up to around 25 years old. It also highlights areas that individuals, their families and carers, and the organizations they work with, may explore to help prevent and reduce the severity of depression. It was officially published on March 21, 2024.


Margaret Jaouadi
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about the scope of work your charity undertakes?

Peter Templeton
My name is Peter Templeton, and I am the founder of the William Templeton Foundation for Young People’s Mental Health. The catalyst for establishing this charity was the experience of our younger son, Will, who battled depression for a couple of years before tragically taking his own life in April 2018. Like many parents faced with such a devastating loss, my wife and I were compelled to take action to prevent others from enduring similar pain.

While numerous charities established by parents focus on support for young people, we recognized the need for a different approach in this crowded space. Drawing from my background, I identified three key areas where my experience and knowledge could make a meaningful impact.

Firstly, as a chemical engineer by training, I believe my understanding of cause and effect mechanisms can shed light on the underlying factors contributing to mental health issues among young people.

Secondly, my two decades of experience in facilitating knowledge transfer between universities and industries, particularly through my work at the Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge, equip me with valuable insights into effective collaboration and innovation.

Lastly, my career has also afforded me extensive experience in innovation management—navigating the complex process of idea generation, evaluation, prioritization, and implementation. I am confident that these skills can be leveraged to develop innovative solutions to address the mental health challenges facing young people today.

Together, these three pillars of experience form the foundation upon which our charity strives to make a tangible difference in the lives of young people battling mental health issues. Through a combination of understanding, collaboration, and innovation, we are committed to creating a brighter future for generations to come.

Margaret Jaouadi
Can you summarise the findings of the research into the factors that impact the depth of depression?

Peter Templeton
Shortly after the passing of our son, Will, within four weeks, a book titled “The Inflamed Mind” was published, authored by Professor Edward Bullmore, then Head of Psychiatry at Cambridge University. This book illuminated the role of chronic inflammation in the development of depression. While informative, it primarily focused on chronic inflammation’s mechanisms without delving into its downstream effects or upstream causes.

As an engineer, I yearned for deeper insight. Diving into research literature, I discovered a wealth of fragmented studies spanning social, biological, and psychological domains conducted over the past 15 years. Recognizing the need to connect these disparate pieces, I envisioned applying engineering root cause analysis to unravel the links.

This analytical approach led us to identify key physical indicators of depression, such as changes in brain structure, volume, and metabolites. We traced these changes back to factors like reduced neuron generation, adaptability, and development, exploring their connections to neurotransmitters, growth factors, immune and stress response systems, gut microbiome genetics, and epigenetics.

Beyond the biological realm, we explored the interplay between biological and psychological factors, examining stress perception, coping mechanisms, lifestyle choices, and underlying conditions. We broadened our scope to encompass societal and social influences, including familial, educational, organizational, and community dynamics.
Synthesizing these insights, we adopted a systems approach, mapping out interconnected biological, psychological, individual, and societal factors. Validated by experts, this holistic model provided a framework for intervention, from prevention to personalized management and treatment.

Collaborating with the Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge, we applied their innovation management methods – widely and successfully applied in the industry – to generate ideas and prioritize initiatives through 25 workshops involving over 150 diverse stakeholders. These workshops generated over 200 evidence-based ideas, which were published in the consultation document “Changing Hearts, Changing Minds” in September 2021. Recognizing that we cannot take 200 ideas forward, and supported by the Aviva Foundation, we evaluated and prioritized the ideas based on the opportunity they offer and their feasibility. This identified and refined 55 projects addressing 45 unmet needs across the care stages of prevention, detection, diagnosis, and management.

The projects typically focus on key groups, such as families and individuals; organizations engaging with young people, including educational institutions, employers, and prisons; the health and social care system; and solution developers and service providers. This has led to a vision of what we would like to see in each group in 10 to 15 years and realized by applying the projects at key care stages. This work was published as “Changing Minds, Changing Lives” in April 2023.

We have now selected ten projects for further development across the spectrum of prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and personalized management and treatment. We have collaboratively developed roadmaps for each area and are now submitting applications for funding to progress the projects.

A study conducted by a mental health charity and the London School of Economics, published in 2022 highlighted that mental ill health in the UK costs about 5% of GDP, with approximately £120 billion attributed to this cost. Of this amount, around £56 billion is borne by employers, indicating a significant financial burden on businesses. This underscores not only the economic impact but also the broader effects on various stakeholders.

Recognizing the pivotal role of employers in shaping mental well-being, we highlighted opportunities for businesses to intervene positively, from fostering supportive cultures to promoting healthy lifestyles.

By quantifying the economic and productivity costs of mental ill-health, we underscored the imperative for proactive intervention. Empowering businesses with insights into systemic vulnerabilities, we aim to enhance both individual well-being and organizational resilience.

Through strategic partnerships and targeted initiatives, we strive to pave a path toward a healthier, more resilient future for young people and society at large.

Margaret Jaouadi
Currently, traditional methods are in use across various institutions and by healthcare professionals, encompassing a range of approaches to address mental health challenges. These methods have been established and refined over time, forming the cornerstone of mental health care practices.

In light of this comprehensive perspective, the question arises: How do the insights and recommendations emerging from your research compare to the traditional methods currently in practice and how could your research offer promising avenues for improvement or expansion? What employers can do to increase awareness of the dangers of depression?

Peter Templeton
If we take the role of food in promoting mental health as an example, several key aspects emerge, particularly within employer settings:

Information and Education: It is crucial to provide employees and their families with the essential knowledge to plan, prepare, and consume mentally beneficial foods. This includes understanding the importance of incorporating a diverse range of plant-based foods to support a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a vital role in mental well-being. Additionally, raising awareness about the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and the detrimental effects of consuming highly processed foods can empower individuals to make healthier dietary choices.

Providing Mentally Beneficial Food: Employers can contribute to mental well-being by offering mentally beneficial food options in workplace facilities such as cafeterias and vending machines. By prioritizing nutritious options over sugary drinks and ultra-processed foods, employers can positively impact employees’ health outcomes. This approach aligns not only with health goals but also with environmental sustainability objectives and community well-being initiatives.

Cultivating Organizational Values and Culture: Fostering a positive organizational culture that prioritizes employee well-being is essential. This includes implementing measures to prevent workplace bullying, managing stress effectively, and promoting physical health and safety. Awareness of conditions that may contribute to or be associated with depression, such as inflammatory diseases, can also inform workplace policies and accommodations to support affected individuals.

Promoting Physical Activity and Community Engagement: Encouraging regular exercise and movement among employees can significantly influence mental well-being. Providing access to fitness facilities and promoting community engagement initiatives can further enhance employee morale and overall health outcomes.

By addressing these aspects comprehensively, employers can create supportive environments that prioritize mental health and well-being, ultimately fostering healthier and more productive workplaces.

Source: Changing Minds, Changing Lives, published in April 2023

Source: Changing Minds, Changing Lives, published in April 2023

Margaret Jaouadi
In light of the lengthy timeframes often associated with implementing changes in mental health care, how do you see AI and emerging technologies contributing to speeding up the process or providing tools for more efficient and accurate prediction of mental health outcomes, such as severe depression and suicide risk?

Peter Templeton
We’ve been collaborating closely with a research group at Cambridge University, who’ve dedicated the past 15 years to pioneering a groundbreaking approach. They’ve developed a method that promises to reshape how clinical psychologists and psychiatrists assess mental health conditions. You see, the traditional tools, like the DSM 5, are effective but time-consuming, often taking up to an hour and a half for a comprehensive assessment.

What’s exciting is what my colleagues at Cambridge have achieved. They’ve digitized the question sets from various assessment tools, including the DSM 5, PHQ 9, GAD 7, and more. Using vast datasets, they’ve trained the system to swiftly analyze responses. This method, known as adaptive testing, tailors the questions based on individual answers, yielding accurate results within just 2 to 3 minutes.

Currently undergoing medical device approval, we envision this technology being implemented not only in schools but also in corporate settings, either directly or through well-being providers. This innovative tool empowers organizations to swiftly identify individuals experiencing mental distress. While it doesn’t provide specific diagnoses yet, future iterations aim to incorporate this capability.

The long-term goal is to utilize this tool for diagnosis, potentially revolutionizing mental health care. Imagine regularly surveying school or workplace populations, swiftly identifying those in distress, and intervening before conditions worsen. By addressing root causes such as chronic inflammation or poor diet, we aim to prevent conditions from escalating and reduce reliance on traditional treatment methods.

This shift not only benefits individuals but also alleviates the strain on mental health professionals, ensuring everyone gets the support they need on time.

Margaret Jaouadi
I completely agree. Healthcare is primed for disruption, especially when it comes to accessing essential services to eliminate delays in crucial diagnosis and treatment.
In this regard, technology holds immense promise. Tools like this can streamline processes, reduce wait times, and ensure that individuals receive the care they need when they need it most. I’m hopeful that you can bring about these changes sooner rather than later, shrinking those 15 years into a more manageable timeframe.

Peter Templeton
Yeah, absolutely. Technology can help in a significant way. However, we delved deep into the barriers hindering the translation of research findings into tangible outcomes. What we discovered was a multi-layered challenge. Firstly, the intricate and interconnected nature of mental health conditions poses a significant hurdle. Understanding how these conditions develop, with various vulnerability factors and mechanisms at play, is like navigating a complex map.

Our model, which identifies key biological conditions and individual vulnerability factors, provides a roadmap of sorts. It allows us to pinpoint the relevant factors for each individual and work towards mitigating those risks. Our approach isn’t solely focused on treatment; rather, it’s about striking a balance between treatment and addressing upstream factors to prevent recurrence and hasten recovery. It’s a holistic approach aimed at comprehensive and sustainable improvement.

Margaret Jaouadi
Please tell our audience how individuals and other organizations can support the charity to continue this hugely important work.

Peter Templeton
There are many ways in which individuals and organizations can help us to build a better future for young people, where mental health problems are significantly reduced in prevalence and severity.

If you’d like to support the charity’s important work, you can do so via this JustGiving page.

In addition, as mentioned earlier in the article, employers can do their bit to support their employees’ well-being. To raise awareness of the myriad of aspects that have an impact on one’s mental health, we have published a booklet ‘Depression – it’s really not all in the mind’ in March 2024 which you can download here.

Also, YPMH is a collaborator with the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing and we are holding an in-person event on June 19th – Collaborate to innovate: Working together to transform mental health outcomes. One of the target audience groups for the event is ‘business’ so all HR and senior leaders are welcome to attend. Tickets can be purchased here:


YPMH is Pacific’s Charity of the Year 2024.