JUDY WOODRUFF: Today is the first day of enrollment for 2017 under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. But for some people who have health insurance, getting appropriate coverage can be a challenge. More than 43 million Americans suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, but more than half never get help, even people who have health insurance. From PBS station KQED in San Francisco, reporter April Dembosky and producer Sheraz Sadiq bring us a story of a single mother struggling to use her benefits to get treatment for herself and her son with autism. APRIL DEMBOSKY: He has autism, a developmental disorder that affects about one in 70 children in the U.S. STRAZH: You have strengths on one side of your brain and weaknesses on your other side, like, you know, controlling your emotions or this and that, you know?
If you're seeking relief from work demands, family concerns or general everyday stress, a licensed mental health professional's office is a good place to seek counsel. But with demanding schedules and commitments, squeezing in one more appointment outside the home could be the excuse you were looking for to avoid therapy. If that's the case, it's time to ditch the excuses and explore the world of online therapy. THE DISEASES YOU'RE MORE LIKELY TO GET AS A MAN -- AND A WOMAN Also called "telepsychology," "tele-mental health," and occasionally "cyber counseling," "e-counseling" or "e-therapy," online therapy has been around for over 20 years. But with improved technology, online therapy has become easier to use and a more accepted practice amongst clinicians and patients today.
This piece is part of the Radical issue, a special package from Outward, Slate's home for coverage of LGBTQ life, thought, and culture. Therapy is a useful tool for anyone seeking to be more content with their life. For members of the LGBTQ community, it can be particularly necessary, given that we are three times more likely than others to experience depression, anxiety, or similar mental health issues. Bisexual, pansexual, and queer (often condensed to bi) women are at an even higher risk when compared with lesbian-identified women. And people who are "in the closet" face higher stress hormone levels and more symptoms of anxiety and depression than those who are open about their identity.
The United States faces a mental health epidemic. Nearly one in five American adults suffers from a form of mental illness. Suicide rates are at an all-time high, 115 people die daily from opioid abuse, and one in eight Americans over 12 years' old take an antidepressant every day. The economic burden of depression alone is estimated to be at least $210 billion annually, with more than half of that cost coming from increased absenteeism and reduced productivity in the workplace. In a crisis that has become progressively dire over the past decade, digital solutions -- many with artificial intelligence (AI) at their core -- offer hope for reversing the decline in our mental wellness.
Artificial intelligence is learning to take on an increasing number of sophisticated tasks. Google Deepmind's AI is now able to imitate human speech, and just this past August IBM's Watson successfully diagnosed a rare case of leukemia. Rather than viewing these advances as threats to job security, we can look at them as opportunities for AI to fill in critical gaps in existing service providers, such as mental healthcare professionals. In the US alone, nearly eight percent of the population suffers from depression (that's about one in every 13 American adults), and yet about 45 percent of this population does not seek professional care due to the costs. There are many barriers to getting quality mental healthcare, from searching for a provider who's within your insurance network to screening multiple potential therapists in order to find someone you feel comfortable speaking with.