Mental illness affects about 15.5% of the world’s population and this number is growing. Though many need treatment, over 50% of mental illnesses remain untreated. One of five U.S. adults suffers from some form of mental illness. Every 40 seconds a person dies from suicide and more than 20 others have tried to end their lives. The consequences of this go beyond our families and cultures, as mental health also has a tremendous economic impact on the cost of treatment and loss of productivity.

This crisis is exacerbated by critical lack of treatment. Indeed, nearly 40% of Americans live without a mental health professional; 60% of U.S. counties have no psychiatrist. Those who access mental health professionals often forget treatment because they can’t afford it. Depressed people visit primary care physicians on average five times a year for those who do not. Others seek help in costlier emergency rooms. Mental health is spent over $201 billion a year, making mental health the most expensive part of our system after honoring the heart.

Examples of current mental health uses of AI

Researchers test various ways of helping artificial intelligence screen, diagnose, and treat psychological disease.

WWBP researchers analyzed social media using an AI algorithm to identify indicators for predicting depression. It turns out depressed people are expressing themselves on social media so that people dealing with other chronic conditions do not mention soleness or use words like “feelings,” “I” or “me.” The results of the team were published in the National Academy of Sciences journal “Proceedings,” but after analyzing half a million Facebook posts. Researchers found that language markers could predict depression up to three months before a formal diagnosis. Other researchers use technology to explore how facial expressions, words, and language may indicate a risk of suicide.

Several companies, besides researchers, use artificial intelligence to help tackle mental health. Quartet Platform indicates potential mental conditions and can refer patients to a cognitive behavioral therapy provider or computerized program. Ginger’s contribution is a chat application employers use to advise staff directly. Its algorithms analyze used words, then rely on training from more than 2 billion behavioral data, 45 million chat messages and 2 million clinical evaluations. The CompanionMX system has an app that allows patients to receive depression, bipolar disorders, and other therapies to create audio logs to discuss their sensations. AI system analyzes the recording and seeks proactive mental health monitoring behavioral changes. Bark, a parental control phone tracker, monitors major messages and social media platforms on a child’s phone to find signs of cyberbullying, depression, suicidal thinking, and sex.

Here are 5 benefits of using AI to solve mental health crisis.

1. Early detection

To be treated quickly and effectively, early detection of mental health problems is essential. AI can already detect markers indicating an early stage of high cancer. Traditional mental health practice relies heavily on individuals and mental health professionals to observe and report indicative changes. As shown in two recent case studies, AI can notice relevant symptoms and act as mechanism for early detection.

2. Supporting mental health practitioners

Like many industries, AI can help professionals in mental health do their job. Algorithms can analyze data much faster than human data, suggest possible treatments, track patient progress and alert people. AI would often work together with a human clinician.

3. Easy accessibility

About 45% of the world’s population lived in 2014 in a country with fewer than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people. Clearly, access to care is a luxury that many people around the world can not or can not afford. AI also plays a major role in personalized treatments and improves access to mental health treatments. Ginger.io, for example, covers both. An online platform that uses AI and machine learning in conjunction with an established clinical network, Ginger.io adapts its ideas to user needs and provides access to various treatments.

4. Reduced stigma

Although less prominent than in the past, mental health stigma remains. Some people fear judgment when they admit they need help from friends, or when they make an appointment with a professional. AI chatbots address this problem by allowing people to talk about their problems every day or night. Some chatbots are trained by mock transcripts from counselors, allowing bots to deal with difficult issues like suicide.

5. Not expensive

Mental illness not only reduces an individual’s quality of life, but also increases health costs. Around $201bn is spent annually on mental health. As more people reach age, this figure is expected to increase some health conditions such as dementia. Because of treatment costs, many people with mental health problems don’t receive timely professional support. Artificial smart tools could offer a more accessible solution.

While using AI to support the current mental health crisis is highly promising, barriers remain to be overcome. There are considerable concerns about privacy and people willing and comfortable to receive different levels of monitoring in their daily lives. Moreover, these applications are not regulated, so any app should be used with a mental health professional. It is essential that protocols are in place when creating AI tools that make them safe, efficient, and built and trained with a wide range of data, so that the tools are not targeted at a specific population. Overall, AI is committed to providing our mental health crisis with critical resources.

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