Artificial Intelligence and Mental Health – The Future Is Here

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In recent years, AI (artificial intelligence) found its use in diagnostics and therapy of mental health disorders. More and more scientific research findings suggest that artificial intelligence can be successfully applied in the diagnostic of mental health issues even before a person is diagnosed with a certain mental health condition by a health provider.

Artificial Intelligence Diagnostics in Mental Health

The main question is how can technology/AI help us develop a better understanding of the causes of mental health issues?

According to research published in EPJ Data Science, Instagram photos can reveal predictive markers of depression. Using Instagram data from 166 individuals, researchers applied artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to successfully identify markers of depression. Statistical data was extracted from 43,950 Instagram photos posted by survey participants.

For their research, the scientists incorporated a group of computerized methods like machine learning, image processing, color analysis, metadata components and algorithmic face detection to extract valuable psychological indicators from available photographs. Their goal was to successfully identify and predict markers of depression in Instagram users’ posted photos.

Results proved that Ai diagnostics outperformed general practitioner’s average unassisted diagnostic success rate for depression. What is more, these results didn’t change even when the analysis was limited to Instagram posts made before individuals with depression were first diagnosed!

These results suggest a complete new era in early screening and detection of mental illness. Applying artificial intelligence, it would be possible to identify the potential signs of illness in their early stages, which would accordingly lead to increased success in the treatment of mental illnesses.

Artificial Intelligence and Therapy

AI is already being applied to learn more and treat the various issues of mental health, depression, anxiety and wellbeing. The application of psychological artificial intelligence in the treatment of mental conditions offers quality and affordable access to healthcare.

There are several examples on how artificial intelligence is already being applied in identifying and treating various mental health conditions.

Chatbots

Over the past couple of years, chatbots have started ‘taking over the world’. Virtual help became available in some of the most sensitive jobs in modern society, from counselling Syrian refugees fleeing civil war to helping Australians access national disability benefits. Bots offered help and support. However, they didn’t actually provide mental health treatment to patients. This has changed with the release of talk therapy chatbots like Tess, Woebot, SU Bot or IESO. These AI systems use daily chat conversations, mood tracking, curated videos and word games to help people manage their mental health.

Tess

Tess is a psychological AI by X2AU, used to connect clients with their therapist 24/7. Tess holds conversations with clients, administering mental health coping mechanisms, encouraging emotional well-being and providing mental health education through a variety of existing, technology based communications such as SMS or instant messaging apps.

The advantages of this psychological AI treatment as opposed to traditional psychotherapy are numerous. Firstly, a great number of people don’t have access to well-timed, quality mental healthcare services due to geographical distance, a hectic life schedule, work hours clashing with therapist office hours or the cost. In the United States many insurance coverage limitations prevent thousands of people from getting the right care from mental healthcare professionals. At the same time, in many developing countries, mental healthcare services are almost non-existent.

Tess uses a patient-centric approach to tackles these mental healthcare disadvantages. To obtain assistance from Tess, it is enough just to send a message. Unlike a standard mental health provider, Tess assistance is available 24/7. It monitors the patient and learns their emotional signals during conversations. Furthermore, based on certain triggers, Tess autonomously transfers this communication to the therapist who is then able to implement or intensify the treatment.

Over time, Tess learns about the patient’s emotions and what triggers them as well as what to say to the patients that will help them cope through a period of depression, forming an emotional bond, which is the key in encouraging the patient to talk.

SU Bot SU is an intelligently artificial life-support system for people going through a change in life. This anti-suicide bot has been developed by Pete Trainor and his team. It is still an early public version of SU, which they are using to ‘train’ the artificial intelligence.

The basic idea is that the world around us constantly changes and sometimes the risk factors associated with our mental health also change. SU is being created to understand human language and context and respond accordingly.

The system uses ‘Machine Learning’ to process the unknown requests and gradually map them back to answers the system might already have, or prompt SU to create new ones. Whenever SU is not sure what to say, the patient gets a message apologizing. That’s when the unknown request is passed into the system. That way, next time when faced with the similar message, SU will provide the correct response.

Anti – Suicide Bot: In men especially, the stigma of talking about mental health issues to another human can often lead to dire outcomes, so the question is can AI help to break down some of those barriers, and how?

The SU initiative was originally brought to life through the meeting of minds called ‘Man Made’. In June 2016 a group of people met to discuss innovative support systems and frameworks to combat the growing problem of male suicide in the UK.

A stereotype of being a man in a traditional sense is literally killing men in today’s ever-changing world. Three out of four suicides in the UK are by men. The SU anti-suicide bot allows men to seek mental health support without a stigma.

Woebot

Woebot is an automated chatbot who helps you monitor your mood and learn about yourself. Woebot conversations occur through Facebook Messenger. This Ai therapist will ask you how are you feeling and what is going on in your life. It will also talk to you about your mental health and wellness and send you videos and other useful tools depending on your current moods and your needs at the moment.

Woebot is founded on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and it uses a combination of natural language processing, therapeutic expertise, excellent writing and a bit of sense of humor to create the experience of therapeutic conversation.

Recent study by Stanford University showed that using Woebot leads to significant reduction in anxiety and depression among people 18-28 years old.

IESO

IESO is a unique method of providing online therapy through written conversation. It is improving the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare for people with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. To do this, IESO uses a combination of People, Process and Technology.

Therapists deliver cognitive behavioural therapy through written conversation online. The conversation is provided in real-time, using a secure virtual therapy room. This allows confidentiality and flexibility, as the treatment can be obtained in a secure way, at any time of the day.

eQuoo

An emotional fitness game eQuoo will be implementing machine learning for behavioural analyses to develop the best tailor made treatment in the future. It is an app that will help you learn vital psychological and emotional skills through an engaging and science based game.

How can AI Support Therapists?

Apart from assisting the clients, intelligent artificial systems today are also finding their use in supporting therapists do their job more successfully. Therapy AI chatbots can help therapists find out the best way to provide service and help a client, based on the client’s current moods and needs. Furthermore, AI systems support diagnosis and helps therapists learn and customize a communication style tailored on each client’s needs.

The possibilities of artificial intelligence applications in mental healthcare are endless. This new tech approach to diagnostics and treatment of people’s mental health conditions is already proving to be beneficial for both clients and their therapists.

Did you like it? Then you will find my article on how gratitude can change your brain interesting, too! 

 

 

 

 

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