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Will AI become the go-to cure for seasonal depression?

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Feeling depressed and low in the winter season is nothing new. But the way we tackle it is nothing short of innovative. Can AI be an effective treatment for seasonal blues?

The way we treat mental health is changing drastically, as automation and artificial intelligence gain ground in global healthcare. We’re learning to trust AI, albeit slowly, and it’s certainly made itself visible to consumers, patients and investors worldwide. 

Training AI to sense our mood is one thing – but what about treating something as complex as depression? 

Let’s start with the demand for such treatment. While depression and anxiety are common in teenagers and adults, people are not always able to access treatment quickly. The consequences can be dire, and patients are suffering while they hang in the balance. It’s safe to say that the demand for more efficient support is high. 

AI for an AI 

Whether or not AI can deliver is another matter. The tech is being built and marketed all over the world – but there’s evidence that it doesn’t always deliver on what it’s meant to. 

As reported by Health Tech World just this week, Meta trained an AI on a huge number of science papers, only to be forced to shut it down after two days. Not only was it not behaving as expected, but it was spewing out racist statements and downright misinformation which could be harmful. 

Not what we need to see if we’re learning to trust AI in matters of the mind and heart. 

It’s not all bad news 

Using automation or machine learning in the sphere of depression and mental health has had its promising times too. 

New artificial intelligence from Earkick can decipher your mental state from 10 seconds of your voice, and then use it to help you feel better – just one example of digital mental health support out there. 

Unaware of their own “agency”

Katarina Hunter, who runs Katarina Hunter Health said:  “If AI is to assist rather than trump trauma healing, people need education about how our survival biology works, why their physical, mental and emotional health might be in a state of disease, and how healing happens via the connection to their own body.

“Otherwise, people will continue to believe that they need a solution from tech because they are unaware of their own agency in their own life and health.”

Recent research studied the preferred treatment modality by most people with depression and found…

  • 26% of participants preferred self-guided digital treatment,
  • 20% preferred expert guided digital treatment
  •  44.5% preferred in-person psychotherapy  

Depression therapy &  AI 

 

AI “therapists” trained to empathise and pick up on suicide ideation are being developed to fill the gaps in mental health services.

Take Wysa, for example. Now a global leader in AI-driven mental health support, this little AI chatbot assistant has even been integrated into Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust services – helping thousands of people with low mood and related conditions. 

Wysa’s Managing Director Ross O’Brien says that some mental health patients actually prefer the lack of human judgement that you get from an AI robot.

He said: “Part of digital therapy is acknowledging you’re not talking to a human, if you create a digital human, people are likely to be less open. 

“When you KNOW you’re not talking to a human they are more open, and feel more able to express themselves without judgement.”

But there is, he said, still a need for human intervention.

He added: “Clinical conversation is a sort of script which has countless options, whereas AI is the processing around it, which interprets and processes other parts of the conversation.

“It will interpret risky words, signs of suicide, plans to self harm or expression of ideation. Trigger words will then be assessed by SISDA which independently verifies suicidal ideation terminology and what the AI perceives to be risky language within the app.”

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