Our fiction streak may be squealing Singularity will wipe mankind out one day but facts show it has greater chances of killing itself. 1 in 5 people across the globe are on the verge of mental collapse. Many more are treading fast on the same route. On this world’s mental health day, let’s take a deeper look at the depth of these issues and see how AI, contrary to its singularity phantom, is alleviating this deep-set problem.
On average one in 6 people suffer from mental health issues. In 2017, this number shot up to 970 million and it keeps growing every year. These issues are strikingly underreported specially in the developing and under-developed nations. But even when the numbers are nowhere near their actual prevalence, they have a desperate story to tell. Here’s what mental health data from Our World in Data says:
Every 40 seconds someone commits suicide and mental health disorders are attributed to 90% of suicide cases in high-income countries. This incidence can be much higher in under-developed and developing countries. The damage comes with a monetary cost too. By 2030, these issues can cost USD 16 trillion to global economies.
Both the scale and the depth of these issues, make them a herculean task for any single body to address. Here are the major challenges:
Lack of resources: In the US, 76-80% of Southerners and 35-50% of Northerners are likely to receive no treatment for their mental health woes. 60% of the counties in the US don’t have a psychiatrist. The situation is far worse in developing countries.
Concentration of resources: 83% of organizations addressing mental health issues are present in high-income countries compared with 49% in low-income countries.
Growing numbers and complexities: Changing lifestyles are increasing prevalence and occurrence of mental health issues. More than 61% of refugees are expected to face a mental health crisis during their lifetime.
Inadequate funding: Despite the widespread prevalence of the problem, mental health initiatives gain an inadequate fraction of funds from the Government bodies.
AI solutions are showing both promise and potential. At present these solutions are branching in two avenues: Algorithms analyzing a person’s speech and facial expressions to find tell-tale signs of any mental health issues and, wearable devices and EEGs to get a holistic picture of the individual’s health.
These developments are high on our radar:
World Well-Being Project has designed an algorithm to detect depression from social media posts. This algorithm can detect language markers in social posts such as “feelings”, “I” or “me” and can point to depression three months in advance before a formal diagnosis.
Quartet’s platform can identify a mental health condition and can recommend a therapy program.
Ginger’s chat application helps employers offer counseling services to their employees.
CompanionMX systems aid patients in the treatment of depression, bipolar disorders and other conditions by keeping an audio log of their feelings.
Bark helps parents monitor their child’s online behavior on social media and detects cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts and depression.
Webot, a chatbot developed by Stanford University, uses cognitive behavioral therapy to treat people with depression and anxiety.
Ellie, by the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, analyzes the patient’s facial expressions and voice speed and notifies what’s ahead.
Apart from offering 24x7 personalized support, these solutions are cheaper and will greatly support mental health professionals. Patients may also find it more comforting to interact with non-judgmental and anonymous robots.
Singularity? The demon side of AI? Well, with no concrete evidence in hand, it is hard to say! As of now, we have greater faith and proof of the AI’s savior side.