There is a serious mental health crisis unfolding around the world. A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety and that 56 million people have depression. The number of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country also remains drastically low in comparison to the number of people who are suffering from mental illness.
Mental Health at Work
Over half the world’s population is currently employed and around 15 percent of working-age adults live with a mental disorder, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Without effective support, mental health conditions can affect a person’s self-esteem and identity at work, their productivity, and ease with which to retain or gain work. WHO states that 12 billion working days are lost every year to anxiety and depression. These mental health conditions cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year mainly from reduced productivity.
While work is a protective factor for mental health, it can also be responsible for worsening the mental health of an employee. That is why employers need to find ways to protect and promote mental health at work and support people with mental health conditions to participate fully and equitably in work.
AI for Mental Health Support to Employees
AI has the potential to be an effective tool for employers to ensure the mental well-being of their employees. Data has shown that 82 percent of individuals believe that robots can support their mental health needs better than another human, according to a study conducted by software company Oracle. In fact, of the 85 percent of employees that say their mental health issues at work negatively affect their home life, 68 percent would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety.
Several organisations are investing in AI technologies to provide mental health care for their employees and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Tech firms are developing tools that can be used by employers to help detect mental health disorders in employees, provide tailored courses of treatment, and monitor the progress thereafter. A thorough understanding of an employee’s requirements and progress can be achieved through the application of AI in mental health care.
“AI has the potential to be an effective tool for employers to ensure the mental well-being of their employees. Data has shown that 82 percent of individuals believe that robots can support their mental health needs better than another human, according to a study conducted by software company Oracle.”
For example, research conducted in 2017 to evaluate the use of a novel AI platform on mobile devices for measuring medication adherence, showed that such platforms possess the potential to increase adherence, immediately detect nonadherence, and also predict future nonadherence in patients. During the course of the study, subjects monitored using the AI platform demonstrated 25 percent higher adherence than those monitored with modified directly observed therapy.
Therapy & Beyond With AI
In a study at the World Well-Being Project, researchers used an AI Algorithm to collect data from several social media users to examine their posts for detection of linguistic cues that could predict depression. The research found that people suffering from depression express themselves on social media platforms in ways different from those dealing with other chronic conditions. People experiencing depression were found to have mentions of words such as “loneliness”, “feelings”, “I” and “me” in their posts.
Another analytical study conducted on Instagram in 2018 proved that leveraging community-generated data from social media, in addition to user-generated data, can be informative for predicting depression among social media users.
Additionally, AI can recognize voice characteristics that the human ear is unable to recognize and analyze vocal cues to foresee mental diseases including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
A 2018 study showed that deep learning, using automated measurement of the face and head motion, has made it possible to objectively measure the severity of depression in a patient, using an interpretable method that helped extract, pre-process, and encode kinematic features.
Machine learning methods can help detect patterns of information in data that are useful to predict outcomes at the individual patient level and thereby help provide better, more tailored care.
Many businesses currently use chatbots to offer direct counselling services to employees by examining the language they use in conversation. Chatbots offer a conversational way to include patients in AI-driven therapies for mental health.
Hope, an AI-powered and automated mental health assessment tool, developed by Prolifics, an Orlando-based digital engineering and consulting firm, is helping companies collect survey data through forms or chat sessions. The program analyzes the data and uses a scientifically proven scoring system to identify and contact those who could use assistance – with early detection being the key to better outcomes.
Additionally, there are applications that enable patients with problems like depression, bipolar disorder, and others to keep audio or journals to keep track of their emotions. They may use this to structure and reflect on their everyday issues and ideas, and it also serves to track their development.
“Hope, an AI-powered and automated mental health assessment tool, developed by Prolifics, an Orlando-based digital engineering and consulting firm submission, is helping companies collect survey data through forms or chat sessions. The program analyzes the data and uses a scientifically proven scoring system to identify and contact those who could use assistance – with early detection being the key to better outcomes.”
Future of AI in Mental Health Care
The initial outcomes of using AI in mental health are encouraging, but the future of long-term effectiveness has not yet been proven. With AI, employees can be engaged both in building habits on a day-to-day basis and being supported on days they’re feeling nervous by providing the right pathway for support.
The adoption of AI tools in mental health outreach and training programs can help bridge the gap between discussing mental health support and actually delivering care to those requiring support. With AI-based companions, employees can gain a better sense of accomplishment and thereby, drive increased productivity.
About the author: Kalyan Ganjam is an expert in building highly competent technology teams spanning different technologies including Mobile Apps, Modern web apps, and Cloud-Native Apps.