While at this conference, hands down the most unexpectedly innovative application of digital mental health was in the “Digital Interactive Theatre” by James Wilson and colleagues, who put on a production called “Behind These Closed Doors”.

In their session, they executed a form of improv, “pick-a-path” theatre where audience members, using a mobile app, MEETOO, are able to alter the storyline of the narrative at intervals throughout the performance.This is perhaps not too compelling a method, except when applied to a scenario which depicts a situation of relational conflict, narcissism and domestic abuse. It turned out to be a jarring and moving experience, enhanced by the audience’s interactive engagement to influence the plot line along the way. I had not ever had a collective audience experience quite like this before. The digital layer here is the use of the MEETOO app which facilitated audience participate.

This technique is being used in event settings to help audiences, from healthcare workers to school children, with stigma, empathy and self-recognition in a cathartic manner unique to artistic means like theatre and literature. I refer to it as bibliotherapy, James Wilson, calls it, safeguarding and “simultaneous dramaturgy”. Hear more about this method from James Wilson himself at https://vimeo.com/79101486.

In a discussion I had with James after the performance, we spoke about how this method could be scaled to impact a greater number of participants via asynchronous, interactive YouTube video, or videogame and virtual reality simulations that allow scenario witness and participation. That I know of no one has done this, but what an opportunity.

In any case, this is a fabulous application I hope you get to experience at some point and I’m sure James would love to hear from you (j.wilson@soton.ac.uk) if you are interested in using this in your community.

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Be well.


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