Chagrin Senior Aligns Mental Health Advocacy, AI
September 6, 2023 by Allison Wilson

Witnessing the effects of depression and anxiety among his high school cohort sparked a passion for mental health advocacy in Shlok Bhattacharya.

Witnessing the effects of depression and anxiety among his high school cohort sparked a passion for mental health advocacy in Shlok Bhattacharya.

“Being a high-schooler, I’ve obviously seen this firsthand with my peers, my friends, just the ways that mental health (conditions) such as depression, anxiety really affect what they enjoy,” said Shlok, listing sports and academics as examples. “Mental health preventing people from pursuing what they enjoy — that kinda really got me thinking, ‘How can I use my interest in things like computer science to help those with these conditions?’”

The 16-year-old Chagrin Falls High School senior is working to combine advocacy with his talent in computer science.

The goal of his nonprofit organization, Cognitive Harmony, founded last year, is to prevent decay in mental health using a number of strategies such as the development of a smartphone app called i2Vibes, community outreach and research in machine learning.

“I’ve seen many practices that help those who are already suffering from these mental health conditions. Psychiatrists and psychologists, they work after these conditions have set in, Shlok said. “The idea of Cognitive Harmony is to prevent those conditions from actually setting in.”

The i2Vibes app is a social media platform that shakes up the traditional formula in how it operates. Users post only one photo per day. The idea is to help them reflect on everything that’s happened and appreciate the small moments of each day, Shlok said.

“i2Vibes promotes this internal joyfulness of people using social media. This pushes people away from depression and anxiety by promoting their individual happiness,” he explained.

He described the app as a memory book of things that made a person happy.

“The app encourages users to take the full day as it is and at the end of the day, reflect on what truly made (them) happy that day,” he said. “What stood out to you that really made you enjoy that day. (It) encourages you to post that daily happiness, that joyful moment, every day.”

The app was used extensively this summer at Stanford University during its summer quarter, which Shlok attended. He and other Stanford students have been working to promote the app at their schools across the country and internationally.

Cognitive Harmony fundraises with the Chagrin Falls Martial Arts Academy. Both organizations have a focus on mental health awareness and a person’s inner strength, and Cognitive Harmony’s website also lists the organization as being in the process of forming local chapters they hope to announce by January 2024.

Shlok’s passion for computer science comes to light in his machine learning and artificial intelligence research. He assisted Sandra Kubler, professor of linguistics and adjunct professor of computer science at Indiana University, and her PhD students on the spread of conspiracy theories on social media.

“My part was basically to create a data set for the machine learning model based off fictional utopian/dystopian societies and that way, we can model the real life conspiracy theory misinformation spread as fictional stories,” Shlok said. “So, instead of going out and spreading conspiracy theories on our own and seeing how that works, we did this in a world-building stage and controlled models.”

Shlok is using what he learned on that project to study sentiment analysis with his Stanford friends, where text data is analyzed to determine the emotional tone of a message so a person’s social media activity may predict the state of their mental health.

“Machine learning has this really unique capability of predicting things that humans can’t really predict based on previous information,” Shlok said.

While he would like to focus more on sentiment analysis in the future, at the moment, it is more of a side project to everything else he has been working on. Shlok hopes to eventually use it to create a machine learning model that can predict if somebody is at risk for depression or anxiety and inform them so they may be guided to resources.

While many of Cognitive Harmony’s projects focus on the negative aspects of social media use, Shlok does not feel that social media, at its core, is a bad thing, but rather, society’s use of it has caused it to spread negative things.

“I feel like the roots are the basic idea of i2Vibes,” Shlok said. “Which is basically to connect this global network of people and spread ideas among everyone.”

In the long term, Shlok said he hopes to promote the idea of preventative measures in mental health, as more awareness will lead to better support and more people taking action.