Emotion-sensing technology to help young carers express social isolation through music

A new project will use cutting-edge ‘emotion-sensing’ technology to explore feelings of loneliness and social isolation experienced by young carers – and help them create music to give voice to their feelings.

Launched on Young Carers Awareness Day (31 January), Greater Manchester-based charity gaddum, and Manchester Metropolitan University, will develop and trial the new technology.

The technology is based around the connection between mood and music, aimed at tackling youth loneliness and isolation among young carers.

The young carers will create novel digital tools and musical performance pieces that utilise artificial intelligence (AI) software, which can read facial expressions and interpret them with music and sounds.

The project has been awarded funding from the government and Co-op Foundation’s Building Connections Fund youth strand.

A young carer can be defined as a child or young person who provides regular and ongoing care and emotional support to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled, or who misuses substances. Young adult carers are defined as young carers transitioning from childhood into adulthood.

There are an estimated 280,000 young carers living in Greater Manchester, who can be a hard to reach group because of the time and energy they put into caring for a loved one.

They face many face challenges including:
• Having different timeframes and responsibilities to many other young people, leaving them unable to socialise and ‘hang out’ when their friends or make new friends, compounding a sense of loneliness.
• Bullying from their peers which can amplify the effects of isolation and loneliness.
• Stress; in a young carer’s day-to-day life there are many situations that can be quite stressful which can include factors such as finance, support in education, time and space, entertainment and understanding their caring role.
• Lack of time, energy and support available to them, preventing them from focusing on their studies.
• Lack of understanding of young carers issues by professionals resulting in them not receiving appropriate support.

In collaboration with young people, Manchester Metropolitan researchers Dr David Jackson and Dr Toby Heys will run a series of workshops to document the young carers’ experiences of loneliness and isolation, and ways in which they can use music to intervene.

The project will help them explore ways that music can help young carers cope better with feelings of loneliness over time, and help to create connections with other young carers as well as educate the public about the private struggle of this group of young people.

MMU and gaddum

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