University of Guelph hackathon yields new ideas for tackling campus mental health

University of Guelph annual hackathon focused mental health this year.

Winning idea, "Guelph Cares" connects students in need of mental health support with someone they can talk to

In this photo are organizer Jon MacPherson (far left), Guelph Cares team members Matthew Sampson, Dave Hudec and Sean Lunt; and organizer Pat Houlding (far right).

The University of Guelph now has a swath of new ideas for tackling student mental health, thanks to the students and staff who took part in last weekend's "Guelph Hacks for Mental Health."

The university's annual hackathon asks students to come up with solutions to a broad social challenge. This year, the focus was mental health.

"A lot of it is that there's not enough opportunities and [mental health] resources available to students," Patrick Houlding, a student organizer told CBC News.

Guelph Cares

The winning submission, "Guelph Cares," is an app that allows volunteer mentors to connect online with students who are dealing with mental health concerns.

"The general idea is to try [and] increase the amount of resources that the student support network has to talk to the student body," said Matthew Sampson, member of team Guelph Cares.

Other submissions included a system that would look at a student's grade data, and identify any sudden or significant drops in grades, which is often an indicator of mental health concerns.

"Much of the stuff that [teams] were doing was looking at affecting the students before crisis would occur," said Dan Gillis, an assistant professor in the school of computer science and one of the hackathon organizers.

The university will be working with team Guelph Cares as well as with some of the other submissions, to develop them into viable systems that can be used at the school.