AI in Psychiatry - Detecting Mental Illness Using AI



Advancement in artificial intelligence has designed smart algorithms that support clinicians with early detection and diagnostics of various types of mental health issues. These algorithms can analyze data much faster than humans, suggest possible treatments, monitor a patient's progress, and alert human professionals to any concerns.


Neuroscientists and clinicians around the world are using machine learning to identify mental health biomarkers, develop treatment plans, and predict crises. Machine learning algorithms could help determine key behavioral biomarkers to aid mental health professionals in deciding if a patient is at risk of developing a particular mental health disorder. Additionally, the algorithms may also assist in tracking the effectiveness of a treatment plan.


Machine learning algorithms can also take in a combination of self-provided data and passive data from smartphones/social media to determine whether an episode of mental disorder is imminent for a patient. There are key indicators as to whether an episode is imminent. These crises can be predicted accurately if we can detect a pattern of stress, isolation, or exposure to triggers.


Startups such as Clarigent Health, based in the US, develop a platform based on AI and machine learning (ML) to detect mental health conditions early-on. The platform acts as a clinical decision support tool providing medical staff with insights into suicide ideation and other mental health issues. Similarly, 7Cups offers on-demand coaching & real-time support service with licensed mental health counselors & coaches. The counselors & coaches help individuals in their personal and professional development by introducing them to meditation and breathwork techniques. Consultations are available around the clock on an anonymous basis, thanks to the service's mobile nature.


To assist people with depression and bipolar disorders, a German startup Moodpath offers mood tracking services, and guides affected individuals toward recovery faster. As a mental health companion, Moodpath asks questions daily to evaluate a person's wellbeing and screen them for symptoms of depression. The app also periodically generates an electronic document with monitoring results that can be used for consultation with a healthcare professional. It also provides educational videos and psychological exercises to strengthen mental health.


Meditopia, a Turkish startup, develops a meditation app to reduce stress, sleep well and find calm for body and mind. The app offers personalized meditation sessions, bedtime stories with various topics to choose from, and music to relax. People suffering from anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders need continuous monitoring and support tools to help them manage their own emotions and track changes in emotional habits or patterns daily. A USA-based company, Sentio Solutions, builds Feel, an emotion-sensing wristband together with an app that provides real-time monitoring and personalized interventions for individuals with anxiety or depression. Sentio's solution for Augmented Mental Health uses a combination of evidence-based behavioral techniques (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness, Positive Psychology) and the company's proprietary emotion recognition technology.


The human voice can be an indicator of health as well. Spoken communication encodes a wealth of information. Recent research and technology intersected to enable our voice to be one of the most useful biomarkers of health. The use of vocal (voice or speech) and visual (video or image of facial or body behaviors) expression data has gained attention in diagnosing mental health disorders. Besides, thermal images that track persons' breathing patterns were fed to a deep model to estimate the psychological stress level.


UK based- BioBeats is enabling individuals to take preventative action against mental Illness. Using wearable sensors coupled with an app and a machine learning system in the cloud to detect, prevent, and treat mental disorders. It aims to allow users to understand how their body and mind respond to stress and how it affects them in their work and personal life.


For instance, sentences that don't follow a logical pattern can be an acute symptom in schizophrenia. Shifts in tone or pace can hint at mania or depression, and memory loss can sign both cognitive and mental health problems. AI system can assess the speech samples, compare them to previous models by the same patient and the broader population, and then rate the patient's mental state.


Help in Psychiatry


Compared to a human psychiatrist or psychologist, the most advantageous features of smart algorithms could be their anonymity and accessibility. For example, many smartphone-based applications have been developed in recent years that can proactively check on patients, be ready to listen and chat anytime, anywhere, and recommend activities that improve the users' wellbeing. Moreover, these applications are usually more affordable than the therapy itself. Thus, also those people could get some help who could otherwise not get any counseling at all.


Seattle-based Lyssn uses AI and machine learning to transcribe therapist-patient conversations into text and analyzes the interactions to determine if providers are using evidence-based, best practices in their treatment. The startup announced a new telehealth platform that uses Lyssn's secure video-conferencing system to provide remote mental healthcare. The service works like personal assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Cortana, listening to conversations and making sense of them.


Woebot, a little algorithmic assistant, aims to improve mood. It promises to connect with the user meaningfully, to show bits and pieces of empathy while giving you a chance to talk about your troubles to a virtual robot and have some counseling in return. Pacifica has come up as a tool to boost users' moods through cognitive behavioral therapy. Tools and activities include meditation, relaxation, mood, and health tracking tools. Likewise, Thriveport is a system of applications that helps users alleviate symptoms of mental illness. It also bases the guided activities on cognitive behavioral therapy's achievements to identify and change negative thought patterns over time.


The AI-based 'emotionally intelligent' chatbot, Wysa, combines cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, dialectic behavioral therapy with guided meditation, breathing, and yoga. It was developed in collaboration with researchers from Columbia and Cambridge universities and aimed to help users manage their emotions and thoughts. AskAri, an AI Chatbot developed by Albert "Skip" Rizzo at the University of Southern California, teaches students self-care skills and offers mental health support and information to help them engage in campus life.


From here, where do we go?


The integration of AI has opened up opportunities to provide mental health support that is impossible with traditional in-person therapy. As with physical health, AI will likely overtake humans' accuracy of mental health diagnosis relatively quickly.


While there is great promise for using AI to help the current mental health crisis, there are still obstacles to overcome. There are significant privacy concerns and challenges in terms of making people comfortable and willing to accept various levels of being monitored in their day-to-day lives. Besides, there is no regulation for these applications, so it is advised that any app be used in conjunction with a mental health professional. As AI tools are created, there must be protocols to make them safe and effective and are built and trained with a diverse data set, so they aren't biased.


We don't see machine learning algorithms and AI bots replacing therapists anytime soon, but they could make them far more effective and increase their reach multi-fold. Most importantly, for millions of people who feel alone and don't have a support system of friends and therapists around them, artificial intelligence may well build resilience, provide support, and save lives.




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