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Artificial Intelligence May Be Your Future Therapist

The idea of a robot or virtual assistant such as Alexa or Siri knowing, or caring, about how people feel sounds absurd – but its quickly becoming a reality.

Mental health is now the brave new frontier for artificial intelligence (AI) as the technology is becoming more prevalent to help mental health providers in their practices. Before long, your new therapist could be a virtual human with listening, counselling and even billing capabilities.

James Lake, a California psychiatrist and author of a series of e-books that teach people how to integrate plans for their mental health, says AI will be a game changer for mental health.

Lake says that AI tools will enable mental health practitioners to better their patient care on the grounds of an individual’s unique history, needs, financial circumstances, preferences and symptoms.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

But what about anti-depressants or other psychiatric medications? AI will also be able to help psychiatrists pinpoint the exact drug or drug class that patients bodies will respond to, potentially shortening or even entirely elimination the trial and error period alongside nasty side effects.

Algorithms will also tell – based on the patients age, gender, responses to questions alongside other factors – if they are likely to attempt suicide. Facebook, for example, uses algorithms that flags posts that contains words or themes that suggest self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

As mental illnesses rise – so too does costs to the economy, with costs to the global economy is projected to be $16 trillion over the next decade, according to the Lancet Commission.

Stock photo of a teenage girl showing signs of mental health issues. PA Photo. (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.)

Current treatment methods and diagnosis, while skilled and insightful, often fail to fully incorporate the unique needs and complexity of each individual – at least not without time, money and a willingness that many people cannot offer.

AI-based therapies, therefore, have the potential to be cheaper, more effective and more time efficient that can encourage patients to continue their therapies.

Clearly then, AI has huge potential to reshape and redefine mental-health care in powerful and meaningful ways – if people are happy to reach out for help.

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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