Are AI Chatbots Empathetic Coaches to Reduce Anxiety & Depression, Anywhere, Anytime?

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mental health chatbot for coronavirus depression

Mental health issues formed a global pandemic long before the word “pandemic” became in vogue. However, it was often invisible, seen only in those with the most debilitating mental illnesses. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many more individuals faced new mental health issues for the first time ever in their lives due to being trapped at home, loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, and much more. Rates of depression and anxiety have skyrocketed. However, the accessibility of mental healthcare has plummeted due to in-person concerns of transmission and an overburdened mental healthcare system – in the United States alone, the shortage of social workers and mental health counselors is projected in the hundreds of thousands.

Thus, technology came to the rescue and mental health chatbots were invented, formed from the concepts of natural language processing and artificial intelligence. Unlike simple mental health apps of the past, these chatbots offer the ability to hold a conversation like a human being. 

The best news is that, even once the pandemic ends, mental health chatbots are here to stay to help break down the two biggest barriers to mental healthcare: accessibility and stigma. At a lower cost than a professional and available on phones, computers, and other smart devices, these mental health chatbots can reach a greater number of individuals with mental healthcare than ever before. Additionally, conversations with these chatbots can be carried out privately and quietly without anyone noticing, allowing individuals dealing with the fear of judgment and stigma to get around these concerns.

Various firms and organizations have understood the stigma around mental health illnesses which are very common. This is the reason they introduced robotics in mental health care at their offices, to leverage the power of AI that can talk to patients like mental healthcare professionals do. 

What are mental health chatbots?

Mental health chatbots or mental health robots are tools or applications that have an interface that a human can interact with. It is a software application available on websites, mobile, or custom smart devices to make mental healthcare accessible. 

These chatbots are designed to handle basic mental health issues and are provided to help mental healthcare professionals handle the underlying issues for each individual. 

In certain situations that produce stress and anxiety, the individual can talk to robot companions that improve mental health by various methods. 

Features of mental health chatbot:

Mental health chatbots offer following features that make them the right tool to go to when you are handling mental stress, anxiety, and other similar issues. Let us take a look at the feature set they come with:

  • These chatbots are designed to understand and handle the situations of the individual they are talking to.
  • The mental health issues can be handled when there are unfavorable events that make basic mental healthcare inaccessible.
  • 24/7 chat support is the most important feature of these robot companions. 
  • These mental health chatbots offer a mental health analysis for each patient and help them to address the underlying causes of their issues.
  • They offer various methods to the patients to help with their mental health issues. 
  • These mental health robots use follow-up methods to improve mental health over both the long term and the short term.

How do mental health chatbots work?

While there is plenty of diversity in how they function, most mental health chatbots draw their capabilities from roots Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short.

It is a way of handling a patient’s mental health issues by changing the perception of the patient in a positive way. In simple language, these mental health chatbots help the user replace negative thoughts with positive ones to alter their outlook on life for the better. 

Conclusion:

Mental health chatbots are developed to provide cognitive behavioral therapy to alleviate the low mental states of their companions, no matter where they are in their own mental health journey. But one important thing to consider here is that these chatbots cannot replace mental healthcare practitioners. These mental health chatbots are designed to help the patients suffering through the most basic form of mental health issues. 

Jacob Boyle serves as CEO and CTO of MARCo Technologies. As CEO, his primary functions include defining the company direction, managing contractors and employees, and spearheading outreach and customer discovery. As CTO, he has handled the development of MARCo, having designed and produced the existing MARCo units; coordinate with manufacturers; develop software for the online edition; and oversee continued R&D. He also served as the Technical Lead in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps accelerator program on behalf of the company.

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