According to Mind, in the UK alone, 25% of the population experience a mental health issue every year—and these figures are likely to increase following the Covid-19 pandemic. As mental health disorder rates increase, so does the demand for services, which reduces access to services such as the National Health Service’s (NHS) mental health care arm. This demand prompted activist Danny Gray to create an artificial intelligence (AI) backed mental health service platform, named JAAQ (an acronym for ‘Just Ask a Question’), to help address the issue of access to mental health care in the UK.

Mental health rates are rife 

There has been extensive concern about the mental health support and information available for those in need. The demand for mental health services has only been amplified by the pandemic, as Covid-19 and its subsequent repeated lockdowns had an impact on individuals’ mental health.

According to YoungMinds, eight million people in England suffering from mental health disorders are unable to get access to specialist help, as they are ‘not sick enough to qualify’ according to the NHS. In addition to this barrier, there is also an official waiting list of 1.6 million people for NHS mental health care following the pandemic backlog.

JAAQ is a tool to increase access to mental health support  

JAAQ was created by Danny Gray, who also founded War Paint for Men, the world’s first men’s makeup brand, which was backed on TV show Dragons’ Den by Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani. The platform was designed to help raise awareness and normalise adverse mental health in men. It aims to combat the issue of lack of access to specialist mental health services information using revolutionary technology.

JAAQ is a free website that allows individuals to ask leading mental health professionals questions. When a question is asked, users are then presented with video responses from expert consultants, including David Veale, Professor in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapies at Kings College and Consultant Psychiatrist, and Dr Erin Brown, Consultant Psychiatrist in Early Intervention in Psychosis. 

The idea for the platform came about when Gray noticed the gap in support for those experiencing adverse mental health problems. According to data from MHFA England, around 20% of young people with mental health disorders face waiting more than six months to receive care from a specialist when they are often already at a crisis point.

At present, there is a lot of work being done to increase mental health awareness and break down stigma, but this is the first solution that provides expert information directly to those in need to potentially prevent them from reaching the crisis stage. The service is also available in-person at the JAAQ booth in the War Paint for Men shop at 29 Carnaby Street, London. In addition, a mobile JAAQ service has also been developed with a van ready to visit festivals, sporting events and schools across the UK.