• 6 Mar 2017
  • | Hannah Chamberlain

Ideas and Pioneers grantee Mental Snapp discusses key moments of success in developing their idea.

Hannah Chamberlain 3
Hannah Chamberlain, Founder of Mental Snapp

We are live on the App Store!

These are photos from the moment we went live… we had known for a day or so that we could in theory press the button at any moment, but it took a Skype call with the development company, the amazing Systango to actually press the button!

Mental Snapp blog photo 1
Credit: Hannah Chamberlain

This is the culmination of a dream that has been a long time in the making. Mental Snapp is a video diary app for people actively managing their mental health. We formed the company back in June 2015, but the idea has been informed by an eighteen year career in the twin fields of mental health and film.

Pivotal moments in the formation of the ambition include a 2003 study, which found that people feel heard and attended to, to a greater extent by telling their stories on camera, than by writing them down. I was behind the camera, nodding in response to them. Another pivotal moment was my student film: ‘The Great Psychiatric White Elephant.’ When one of the interviewees explained how she felt taking the step to see a psychiatrist based in Claybury Hospital, ‘he put his head down, and he wrote. And that is all I saw of him…’ – she bent her head and patted the top of it – ‘…for an hour. No sort of human contact at all’.

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Credit: Hannah Chamberlain

So I suppose the seeds of the idea were there in my very first film. The problem of what happens when you have your story told for you, you don’t have a chance to articulate your own history. It creates dependence. It means that you rely on being validated by ‘the professionals’, and the medical model becomes central to your life. We want to look at the social model of mental health, where you create your own record. 

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Credit: Hannah Chamberlain

The power of the camera is that it is one of our most primal relationships, certainly for most people in the West. We have three early relationships: Mummy, Daddy and Camera. Telling your stories on camera means that being listened to and heard can be things that you do for yourself, in contrast to relying on services. It can be a way in which you care for yourself. The service user does not go into the psychiatrist’s office and into the psychiatrist’s world, rather the service user goes into that office with authority, knowing their history, and invites the psychiatrist into their own world. This is the social model; the individual in their social context, empowered by their own expertise. This creates independence.

This is the goal. We’ve learnt a lot on the way. Thanks to support from UnLtd, to develop market research and Paul Hamlyn Foundation we’ve been lucky enough to get together a group of service users who met regularly to consult on our plans and we now have the prototype developed and on the App Store. The next steps are that it will be tested in two NHS settings within Camden and Islington NHS Trust and one community setting: the Dragon Cafe in Southwark over a three month period and independently evaluated by a consortium of universities led by London Southbank. A report will be ready in the autumn, but we are already planning future iterations and a route to market that will make the product available to communities and individuals at low cost and accessibly.

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Credit: Hannah Chamberlain

So the goal we set ourselves, which is a big one, is achieved one little step at a time. Thank you everyone who has been sharing in our journey. You’ve been, and are, brilliant. And anyone new who wants to get in touch – here are the details – @mentalsnapp,


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