The Problem

COVID-19 has already impacted mental health issues globally: many who’ve faced illness and potential death have acute anxiety, others who’ve lost a loved one or a job have depression, medical professionals who’ve worked in harrowing conditions have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)…

And, of course, mental health challenges will continue to cause unnecessary suffering even after the pandemic curve has been flattened.

This widespread mental injury may potentially have long-term social consequences. As observed by the WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health (2019-2023), “People with mental health conditions experience widespread human rights violations, discrimination and stigma.”

This violation of human rights is often exacerbated among members of refugee communities; for example, services are hampered by overstretched capacity, a shortage of trained providers, and stigmatization of mental health issues.

The Context

What connects these distinct mental health demographic groups? Two simple factors: the necessity for effective treatment to provide hope and healing and the widespread availability of that treatment.

Unfortunately, cognitive therapy and psychiatric medical interventions have presented limitations over time. Plus, they remain inaccessible for the vast majority.

But what if it is possible to rewire our brains instead? What if a method to reduce suffering and promote resilience is actually freely available to all of us?

That’s the principle of neuroplasticity: supporting the brain to build new pathways.

Regarding mental health, one method of rewiring the brain’s response to certain situations is through repetitive and targeted interactions—an example is microlearning.

The ESPERO Solution

ESPERO tackles the problem of increased mental health challenges brought about by COVID-19 within a context of limited treatment possibilities. We propose an innovative solution to empower those struggling with mental health issues while helping them build resilience.

Specifically,we will develop a coordinated set of targeted microlearning materials on various aspects of PTSD; these materials will include gamified elearning modules and digital multimedia offerings. The approach is to promote neuroplasticity through repetitive and targeted interactions.

These materials will be made freely available to the public (during and after The Global Hack) with the intention of supporting our target group members to engage in self-healing.

Of course, this approach is experimental so we cannot guarantee that the materials will have immediate and measurable psychological impact. However, we can guarantee interdisciplinary engagement—plus a lot of heart and soul—in the next days to develop innovative and effective solutions.

The Target Group

Our generalized target group will be those experiencing or at risk for PTSD, with emphasis on two subcategories:
– Syrians of a refugee background (between the ages of 13-45)
– medical professionals in Austria dealing with COVID-19 (under the age of 45)

We realize that these are very different target groups—and frankly, that’s the whole point. We aim to develop a core microlearning approach that can later be adapted and scaled for different target groups and multiple purposes.

As noted by the Estonian Social Insurance Board in its Partner Challenge, youth are also at risk, so they have been included in this target group.

If proof of concept is achieved in this hackathon, ESPERO will pursue funding to develop thousands of interlocking, coordinated microlearning materials on an array of mental health issues and within a cross-culturally sensitive and multilingual context. Given that long-term and global goal, the materials we produce in the next few days will be available in both English and Arabic.

Our Global Hack Goal

Regarding the specific technical and non-technical elements we will develop during the hackathon, again, it will be a coordinated set of targeted microlearning materials (gamified elearning modules and digital multimedia offerings) on the topic of PTSD and for the target groups mentioned above.

A variety of PTSD areas will be covered, including ‘How to cope with stress and anxiety created by the isolation and uncertainty’ as indicated by Pipedrive in its Partner Challenge.

We will focus on digital content creation using multiple tech approaches and authoring tools.

As ESPORA's subsequent tech choices will be contingent upon the preferences of specific target-group populations, we have chosen not to develop an app in these two days. In short, as the microlearning material we now create will be SCORM compliant, we can envision an array of eventual distribution models, ranging from integration on existing platforms or LMS systems to scaling with different kinds of mobile infrastructure.

Ultimately, ESPERO aims to expand mental self-care choices and in the process, share information, decrease stigmatization and promote human rights.

The Team

The core team of this project includes (alphabetically): Rania Ali, Doaa Al Zamel, Nour Barakeh, Suad Mohamed, Heather Wokusch. All of us have either personal or familial experience with mental health challenges, and all of us are passionate about developing comprehensive, effective and scalable new treatment approaches. As human rights activists and social entrepreneurs, we represent multiple nationalities, generations, faiths.

Our diverse skill sets include: psychotherapy, journalism, pharmacology, film-making, digital architecture, creative arts, virtual learning, website building, public speaking, fashion design, translation, interfaith issues, and various kinds of writing.

We will start posting the microlearning materials on Friday 10th at:

Try It out



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