"How are you doing today?" "What's going on in your world right now?" "How do you feel?" These might seem like simple questions a caring friend would ask. However, in the present day of mental health care, they can also be the start of a conversation with your virtual therapist. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are bringing psychotherapy to more people who need it. It is becoming clear that AI for mental health could be a game changer.
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.
"How are you doing today?" "What's going on in your world right now?" "How do you feel?" These might seem like simple questions a caring friend would ask. However, in the present day of mental health care, they can also be the start of a conversation with your virtual therapist. Innovative technology is offering new opportunities to millions of Americans affected by different mental health conditions. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are bringing psychotherapy to more people who need it.
The road to therapy is often inscrutable, windy and unsatisfying, with availability, cost and fit frequently preventing people from getting the care they need. A new wave of Bay Area startups is turning to tech to change that, using algorithms and automation to take the guesswork out of finding the right therapist. At a time when mental health care is rapidly moving from clinics and hospitals on to our phones, they're building software to enhance the human relationship at the heart of successful therapy. But the speed at which this shift has occurred is sparking as much concern as excitement about technology's potential. The mental health industry has come to an inflection point with tech.
"According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. They affect 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population, every year. Furthermore, anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old, putting them at a much higher risk to perform poorly in school, engage in substance abuse, and miss out on important social experiences. Even though this disorder is highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment, most likely due to a perceived societal stigma, with men far less likely to seek treatment." One of the best decisions I made in my life was deciding to see a mental health professional in my senior year of college.