According to research conducted by Our World In Data, more than 13% of the global population suffer from one kind of mental disorder or another. This is incredibly alarming, considering that this statistic is rising all the time. More than half of adults who suffer from a mental illness deal with their mental health without being treated, which has resulted in at least one person dying from suicide every minute of the day. That’s definitely disconcerting to think about as the numbers keep growing, but we’re often left wondering just how we can make a difference.
Not Enough People Have Health Care Access
However, despite the need for mental illness treatment, more than 40% of Americans either don’t have access to mental health care professionals or live in an area where there’s a shortage of treatment options. As somebody who lives in the UK, I also know first hand that it’s the same situation throughout Europe. We’re desperately seeking for help, but we don’t have the resources to gain that help when we seek it out. Whether it be due to monetary issues or simply the lack of care that’s on the table, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered and reflected on. It also doesn’t help that a lot of mental health care professionals somewhat find it easier to just give up on a person rather than continue working with them. There is a difference between not wanting help and not being able to commit to it on your own, and, as somebody who has constantly been turned away from treatment, I know how it feels to want to give up on trying to manage your mental illness altogether because you feel hopeless.
So, how can we change it? That’s not as clear cut as we might like to think. It’s not as simple as saying ‘let’s get more resources and provide more help’ because then we have to factor in the logistical side of things. We might want to provide more help, but then who is going to be the one to offer that assistance and what’s it going to cost? Where are they going to be based – what’s it going to mean for the mental health sufferer who’s seeking treatment? Are they going to have to pay large sums of money just for access to resources? Though, with technology expanding and growing day by day, surely there’s got to be some way that we can make use of technology to promote better mental health?
Researchers Are Exploring Using Artificial Intelligence To Improve Mental Health
For some, this will be frightening to hear, but researchers are currently testing different methods of how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to help screen and diagnose mental illnesses. How? Well, the actual method of use depends on which researchers you look into.
The World Well-Being Project (also known as WWBP) has taken to analysing social media with an AI algorithm that’s meant to pick up on language markers and cues that might indicate somebody is suffering from poor mental health. This has proven useful because it’s been found that those suffering from depression tend to express themselves on social media by sharing statuses, updates, or posts about how they’re feeling as they believe that social media gives them a platform. The Project analysed over half a million Facebook posts and found that they were able to create technology that was able to notice the use of particular language markers, which helped identify the users which may be suffering from depression.
Some Companies Are Developing AI Apps
Likewise, different companies and organisations are making use of artificial intelligence to provide help to those that are suffering from mental health as well. For example, CompanionMX now has an app that allows sufferers to create an audio log about how they’re feeling, and Bark, a phone tracker app, monitors major messaging platforms to detect signs of depression or suicidal thoughts. Bark does this by monitoring the messages that a person sends and receives so that it’s able to pick up on certain language markers that indicate a person might be struggling.
Generally, this use of technology could very much revolutionise health care and the way that people receive treatment for their mental health issues. A lot of people definitely fear artificial intelligence due to the fact that they believe the technology could eventually be used against us, but it’s nice to see how researchers are striving to make a difference by using the technology to support those with mental health problems. It’s safe to say that the use of AI in healthcare is expanding all the time. Take Sayana, for example – a new app that I’ve recently downloaded that allows the user to talk to a bot about how they’re feeling. In return, they’re reminded of self-care tips and receive advice on how to deal with what they’re feeling. Technology is constantly learning new things and offering new benefits, so the idea of AI being used to treat mental health is beyond exciting, even though it is nerve wracking.
Why Using Artificial Intelligence Is A Good Idea
We can never predict how technology may turn out. If you asked somebody 10 years ago where they thought our technology would be, it’s fair to say that their assumptions wouldn’t come close to where it actually is. However, even though there are risks to using Artificial Intelligence to treat mental illness, there are also so many positives that we need to consider at the same time.
Provides Better Support For Professionals
We’ve already covered the fact that one of the reasons why there isn’t enough mental health care is because there simply aren’t enough professionals to deal with the demand of people that need help. Taking the time to diagnose and monitor a patient takes a lot of time – time which is vital to their treatment. However, with the use of AI, health care professionals are going to be able to rely on other sources of help to aid them in doing their jobs. Artificial Intelligence can be used to monitor and diagnose patients as well as suggest treatment plans and then also monitor those treatment patterns. We already have apps that suggest medical conditions for symptoms that we might be suffering or help us monitor our daily medication, so having systems that monitor patients even further is not far off.
Constant Low-Cost Access
Again, because there’s such a lack of mental health care professionals, a lot of people with mental illnesses simply don’t receive the time of day to be treated. Even though this isn’t the fault of the professional themselves, it’s a problem that a lot of people have to deal with, considering there are only so many health care providers and so many people with mental health struggles. Artificial Intelligence systems are also going to help people gain access to health care whenever they may need it. AI systems will offer patients the opportunity to get the help that they need whenever they need it and wherever they are. Likewise, as AI becomes more mainstream and more used throughout health care providers, it’s going to cost a lot less than private health care would, which is going to help a lot of people.
All in all, the idea of using artificial intelligence throughout health care is an exciting and revolutionary idea. It has the potential to help so many people and change the world while also helping combat the stigma around talking about mental health. The more research that is conducted into this topic, the more opportunities are going to be found to make use of technology in mental health care. Despite there still being a lot of obstacles to overcome, we’re well on our way of living in a more digitised and technologically advanced state of wellbeing.
How do you feel about artificial intelligence potentially being used to treat mental health? Do you think it’s a good idea, or does it pose more risks than it’s worth?