mental health chatbots
Intelligent Automation / November, 18 2022

Everything you should know about mental health chatbots

If you are wondering how mental health chatbots can improve human lives, let me enlighten. Try talking to familiar virtual assistants like google assistant, Alexa, and Siri. Tell them you are not feeling good. Can you guess the response? I leave it to your exploration. Chatbots have revolutionized various industries and even bettered our lives in many ways. But can they be our go-to person, especially regarding mental health? Let’s find out.

Patients and therapists agree that mental health chatbots could assist clients in better managing their mental health. Here are a few interesting stats,

  • 92% people have moved to recovery from mental illness
  • 89% satisfaction score
  • 20% of people continue to use it after a year

Mental health is a taboo subject. There have been few large-scale efforts to address the growing number of people suffering from mental illnesses. There is a significant gap between the treatment that should be available and the help that is quickly and affordably available. The National Mental Health Survey reports that even developed countries suffer from less psychiatrist-to-patient ratio. The system’s flaw ensures that most people suffering from mental health issues never receive the assistance they require. Furthermore, people are hesitant to voice out their mental health issues.

Most people experience stigma associated with psychiatric disorders, which frequently impedes effective treatment. Many digital interfaces are emerging as viable complementary services, like Artificial intelligence-based solutions developed in collaboration with healthcare professionals, which provides a person with assistance and, in some cases, companionship. This has the potential to reduce the cost of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.

Powered by advanced AI capabilities:

Chatbots can be personalized specifically to communicate with people suffering from mental illnesses. Chatbots can perform suicide prediction and prevention, identification of predictors for a response, and determine which drug is best suited for a particular patient. AI-powered mental health chatbots use NLP-based frameworks that interact with human users through spoken, written, and visual languages.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the foundation of mental health chatbots. It employs structured exercises that motivate people to question and change their thought patterns. This format is similar to a step-by-step software guide or chatbot. Timely interventions of the chatbot with patients help manage mental health conditions. It encourages patients to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones using natural language processing and clinical expertise. Thus it provides a cathartic and therapeutic experience for the end user.

How different are mental health chatbots from regular chatbots?

Conversations with regular chatbots have a professional tone and have a goal of problem-solving, while conversing with mental health chatbots should be similar to conversing with a friend.

Natural language understanding (NLU) technology underpins mental health chatbots, allowing them to understand the user’s feelings and emotions and offer practical advice or a course of action.

What makes them better?

The primary goal of mental health chatbots is to make the user feel heard. And it is in this capacity that they can address mental health issues. Encrypted mental health chatbots can be trusted companions if the users’ data privacy is protected. Users could discuss their issues, stories, emotions, or psychological symptoms without any thought of being judged, which makes mental health chatbots a go-to person. Furthermore, chatbots have no stigma, making them an excellent tool for addressing mental health issues.  

The chatbots alone can not improve the situation while it requires the combined effort of medical professionals and mental health chatbots. Chatbots can perform the initial stage of discussion, while the medical consultation stage will go to the respected medical professional. The technology still needs to be mature enough to allow professionals to disposition with chatbots safely, while we do not recommend completely relying on a chatbot for medical consultation. Chatbots can perform follow-up tasks, and track the patient’s activity and mental state, while medical professionals lack that ability. Chatbots come in handy as it is available 24/7. It can alert the required professional in case of any serious issue.

A better diagnostic tool

The first step towards implementing these chatbots would be healthcare professionals using mental health chatbots to supplement their face-to-face (or monitor-to-monitor) interactions with patients. This will assist them in expanding their patient outreach. Furthermore, they would no longer need to conduct a preliminary session to learn more about a patient’s background. The chatbots would have recorded all that information and would be available for review. Mental health professionals can also use mental health chatbots for their websites to increase patient outreach and reduce workloads. At the core, a chatbot should be a companion who listens, converses with you, and alert when required, just like a normal human.

Generally, human beings are complex. It takes extra intelligence to understand those who have mental illnesses. Those suffering from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and suicidal ideation have multiple layers of thinking and faces they present to others. Mental health chatbots can assist in finding what type of issue the patient is facing and help diagnose the illness, thus shouldering the workload of healthcare professionals.

Current challenges

Chatbots provide companionship, support, and therapy, significantly reducing the workload on therapists. It is a viable option for people facing accessibility and affordability issues.  However, there is growing skepticism about chatbots’ discourse on sensitive and subjective issues. The most severe concerns are

  • confidentiality
  • universality of application
  • lack of standardization and monitoring
  • patients developing escapism tendencies due to over-reliance on artificial bots
  • inaccurate diagnosis of severe mental disorders. 

To overcome these challenges, you should build better chatbots with high data security and compliance and with intelligent workflows that can accurately understand the context and do what is required.

How can we help?

Are you looking for a customized chatbot? Then we can build your custom chatbot with high data security and compliance, assuring you high user experience and engagement. To get your custom chatbot in a week, get in touch with us for a quick chat.

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