The Magnificent Potential of Machine Learning

By: Melissa Liu

Machine learning is the usage of computer programs which automatically improve its algorithms. The program learns through experience by using statistics to find patterns in mass groups of data: a prominent subset of artificial intelligence (1).  For example, machine learning can detect patterns of specific diseases within “patient electronic healthcare records and inform clinicians of any anomalies” in a dataset of people with benign and malignant tumors of breast cancer (2). Machine learning in mental health has mainly been implemented to identify specific biomarkers, develop treatment plans, and predict crises (3). David Benrimoh, a psychiatry resident at McGill University, claims that machine learning algorithms will aid doctors in doing a “better job at determining relevant subtypes of different disorders and which treatments are most effective” to utilize. Through identifying sub-categories, doctors and mental health experts will “develop more catered treatment plans and medication dosages” (3), tailoring to precision medicine. 

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Romanticizing Mental Illness in Social Media

There is often concern with how the majority views mental illness, whether they stigmatize or sensationalize it. To remove the stigma around mental illness, there has been a vast increase in the number of conversations surrounding it. Although this effort is extremely important and well-intentioned, these conversations often contain misrepresentations of mental illness and portray them as desirable.

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What is Seasonal Depression?

Written by Melissa Liu, NJ

The darkness that fills window screens by 5pm during the winter season affects us all. Staying at home for extended periods during the winter is bound to stimulate our feelings of summer-longing. Sometimes these “winter blues” can have more dramatic impacts on people. Over 5 percent of American citizens experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) (1). SAD occurs mostly in the winter time, though few people experience symptoms of SAD in the spring and summer. Studies have shown that people with clinical depression are more likely to experience SAD and out of five given individuals with seasonal depression, four of them are women. (1) 

The causes for SAD are not clearly known, however, doctors do know that changes in neuro-transmitters do have a role in altering depression and mood changes (2). Specifically, serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, plays a role in some of the depressive symptoms common in SAD. With reduced sunlight during the winter and fall, serotonin levels may drop dramatically and cause dysfunctions in sleep, appetite, emotional regulation and feelings of well-being. Reduced levels of serotonin are also linked with depression. Furthermore, melatonin, a hormone that controls sleeping, has been linked to seasonal depression (2). Because the days are shorter during the winter and night time feels longer, there is more production of melatonin. The increase of melatonin can throw off circadian rhythms, and cause people to experience an out-of-sync life schedule (2). Symptoms that correlate with SAD are feelings of depression, anxiety, overeating, sleep difficulty and mood changes (3). However, even with such deplidating symptoms, there are still effective ways to combat seasonal depression.

Bright light therapy or phototherapy includes exposure to artificial light; the light box gives off bright lights which are similar to natural outdoor sunlight (4). Light therapy has been found to lower melatonin and has been effective in 85 percent of diagnosed seasonal depression cases. If light therapy does not sound right, doctors have also recommended lifestyle changes, such as making a scheduled exercise plan or increasing interaction with family and friends. Exercise has immense benefits to the brain and body, such as an increase in happiness, better sleep and more control over mood changes. Creating social situations can also suppress feelings of isolation and sadness (5). Moreover, cognitive behavioral therapy is another way to combat SAD, as talking to a professional or expressing emotions in an app, like Magnify Wellness, can alleviate the stress and symptoms associated with SAD. Finally, some individuals choose to take medication. Although drugs may be helpful in calming depressive feelings, there may be other side effects that are unfavorable. It is important to discuss with doctors and family before choosing the medication route (5). 

There is all the more reason to appreciate the brighter, sunnier days.

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  1. Cachero, Paulina. “The Best Ways You Can Combat Seasonal Depression This Winter.” Time, Time, 21 Dec. 2020, 
  2. WebMD Editors. “Seasonal Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Symptoms, Causes, Treatments.” WebMD, WebMD, 12 Sept. 2020, 
  3. Mc Mahon B;Andersen SB;Madsen MK;Hjordt LV;Hageman I;Dam H;Svarer C;da Cunha-Bang S;Baaré W;Madsen J;Hasholt L;Holst K;Frokjaer VG;Knudsen GM; “Seasonal Difference in Brain Serotonin Transporter Binding Predicts Symptom Severity in Patients with Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Brain : a Journal of Neurology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 19 Mar. 2016,
  4. MHA. “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Mental Health America, 
  5. Bancos, Irina. “Serotonin.” Serotonin | Hormone Health Network, Hormone Health Network, Dec. 2018, 

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Meet Mikaela!

TW: Suicide

Hello, and welcome! My name is Mikaela Brewer, and I’m the Director of Writing here at Magnify! I’m so glad you’re here. I’m going to start with a little introduction about who I am, where I’m coming from, and where I’d love for us to go.

On February 8th, 2017, I sat in the psychiatric ward of the Stanford Hospital on a 51/50 hold for suicide. I was cold, exhausted, only allowed to eat with a spoon, and forced to sleep and go to the washroom in the presence of a police officer. Here’s the real kicker though: I was 19, a member of the Canadian Women’s National Basketball Team, and on a full scholarship for basketball at Stanford University, as the first Canadian member of the team to ever play there. Why I struggled so profoundly with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is something many people, including myself, found difficult to understand. On the outside, I had it all. 

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