I started doing Moodscope recently and think it is a really useful tool. I don’t suffer from depression but like anyone, I have my up days and my down days. I heard Jon Cousins being interviewed on Radio 4 and thought I would check it out. Basically, you respond to words on cards and the program gives you a daily score which it maps over time. The trick is awareness. Being able to see the changes in your mood makes you feel more in control of them. When you get a high score you feel good and when you get a low score you get an empathetic message. Whether you suffer from depression or not, being aware of your feelings is no bad thing. Certainly, within relationships the way we feel is enormously influenced by how we are getting along with our partner and the mapping process can help you to keep an eye on that. You can also assign a buddy to your moodmap so that your scores are emailed daily. If you do this with your partner it might be an interesting way of communicating how you both feel.
The Moodscope story
Hello, I’m Jon Cousins and Moodscope starts with my story. For 30 years I’ve run my own businesses in advertising and online. Most who knew me would say I was successful, happy and well adjusted. But throughout that time I’d carried a secret burden of depression, managing to hide it from most people; even from myself for a while.
My main skills are creative ones and I’m good at coming up with ideas. Between my bouts of depression were periods of great creativity when my ideas flowed like water.
I always thought this was just normal behaviour, but I now recognise they were probably artificial ‘highs’.
During 2006 the highs came less often and the black periods were more frequent and longer, so I decided to ask for help from the NHS and made an appointment at my local mental health clinic for Monday December 11th 2006. It was to be the worst day of my life.
I poured out my heart to a psychiatric nurse for an hour, after which she looked at her watch, closed her notebook and told me I needed to see a psychiatrist. I’d have to wait months for a diagnosis.
I left the clinic feeling the bottom had fallen out of my world, and at my lowest ebb, I walked home across a bridge over the East Coast Main Line railway. I remember looking down at the track, seriously thinking about ending it all.
Over a tough Christmas, I slowly understood that despite asking for help, I wasn’t going to get it.
I was on my own.
For a living I solve problems by thinking creatively. I’ve worked with psychologists and learned a bit about how the mind works. The normal answer would be medication or therapy, but might there be another way?
I looked at how Weight Watchers works. Their members regularly log their weight and share it with others who support and encourage them. Scientific research has shown that this really succeeds, so could something similar work to manage moods?
I found a highly respected mood test, simplified it with the approval of its inventor, then for five months logged my mood every day. It began to help, so I then put my test online so I could share my results with a couple of friends every day. They could ‘buddy’ me without us intruding on each others’ lives.
The results were miraculous. My lows quickly dried up and the highs returned. I’ve been free from depression for 21 months now, and I’ve learned what to do when I see myself heading into an occasional dip.
Friends were asking to try the system themselves, so I built a prototype website which I called Moodscope.com. They too started to see similar results.
Many of us have mental health problems. In fact one in four will be affected by mental illness at some point in our lives, and even this is probably just the tip of the iceberg – the people who are brave enough to tell their GP. How can our health system possibly cope with a problem this huge?
The simple answer is that it can’t. As I discovered, people have to help themselves, and they have to help each other.
Moodscope could be the tool to make this happen.
Imagine a world where Moodscope was available to all, and the friends acting as buddies had access to simple information and advice so they could provide encouragement and help.
Imagine that a big chunk of the £324 million that the NHS spends on antidepressants every year could be focused on those people who desperately need clinical care, rather than on prescriptions which, at best, suppress the symptoms of depression.
Imagine that psychotherapists could channel their energies into working with the chronically mentally ill, rather than those who are maybe temporarily depressed or anxious.
And imagine the potential of a world where so many people were able to help and support one another without intruding – what a powerful and cohesive impact that would have on society.
Photo: Jon Enoch