Can AI Help Ease the Global Mental Health Crisis?

Published March 23rd, 2021 - 06:03 GMT
Can AI Help Ease the Global Mental Health Crisis?
If this past year has shown us anything, then it is the power of technology and how much it has transformed our world. We have come to see technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) all around us.

The world is facing a mental health crisis, and yet less than 2% of government expenditures goes to mental health says WHO. As a major contributor to the global disease burden, depression, affects around 264M worldwide. These numbers are real and terrifying, and yet no one is raising any red flags. Therefore it is crucial that more should be done to help ease the mental health burden. And in a time when technology is changing our lives, why not take advantage of its transformative powers? 

If this past year has shown us anything, then it is the power of technology and how much it has transformed our world. We have come to see technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) all around us. From finance to fashion and education, AI is changing the way we live and work. However, what so many people are failing to see is that AI can be the secret to easing one of the most burdened sectors worldwide. 

 

So how is AI used in mental health? 

Many researchers are actively working towards using AI as a diagnostic tool to help detect and treat mental illnesses. For instance, Researchers from the World Well-Being Project (WWBP) turned to social media data to help them predict depression. By gathering and analyzing data from a sample of social media users, the researchers were able to pick up on certain linguistic markers that are able to detect depression. Other researchers also suggest that AI can be used to evaluate a person’s mental health through analyzing their facial expressions and behaviors. 

AI can pave the way for early detection which is quite instrumental in the fight against mental illnesses. With early intervention comes better and more positive outcomes says mental health experts.

Many are also working towards integrating AI into applications to help people manage their mental health and illness. Using AI in apps can open the doors for mental health professionals to monitor their patients and help them in their healing journey. And this can be quite pivotal for people who are suicidal or have mental illnesses. Not only only that, but AI can also be used in apps to offer emotional and mental support. Among many other applications, Woebot is an AI tool that provides cognitive behavioral therapy. It aims to help people monitor their overall wellbeing as well as any symptoms of depression or anxiety. The app is intended to create conversations with users to support and engage them and thus make therapy more accessible. 

Ultimately, it is important to make mental health accessible to everyone. AI can not replace the need for human connection when dealing with mental illnesses, but it does give mental health professionals access to tools that can make diagnoses and treatment faster, more efficient and accessible. Therefore, governments, schools and businesses should actively work towards utilizing technologies that can improve the mental health sector and even save people. 


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