AI May Help Diagnose Mental Illness Through a Speech-Based Mobile App
Wed, April 21, 2021

AI May Help Diagnose Mental Illness Through a Speech-Based Mobile App

The world is having a mental health crisis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives / Photo by: Africa Studio via Shutterstock

 

The world is having a mental health crisis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Today, there are around 450 million suffering from such conditions, with one person dying from suicide every 40 seconds. For every adult who dies from suicide, there are an additional 20 people who have attempted to end their life.

These figures place mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability across the world. However, people suffering from these conditions can live productive lives despite long-term and chronic impacts. Reports show that over 80% of people with schizophrenia can be free of relapses in just a year of treatment; 70% of people with epilepsy can be seizure-free when treated with simple, inexpensive anticonvulsants, and 60% of people with depression can recover with a proper combination of antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy.

The problem is that not everyone suffering from mental disorders have access to healthcare. Aside from the lack of mental health interventions, many countries also lack psychiatrists and other mental health specialists to provide treatment for mental health patients. Forbes, a global media company focusing on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and lifestyle, reported that over 60% of US counties don’t have a psychiatrist, while almost 40% of Americans live in a place where there is a shortage of mental health professionals. 

How AI Can Help in Psychiatry

Fortunately, artificial intelligence can help. Experts argue that psychiatry could benefit from AI’s ability to analyze data and pick up on patterns and warning signs that mental health professionals might never notice. AI could also be a powerful tool to solve the mental health crisis for several reasons. For instance, the technology can provide a tool that patients can access all the time without waiting for a doctor’s appointment. 

The cost of using AI in psychiatry would not worry patients that much because its tools could offer a more accessible solution to their problems. The anonymity of an AI algorithm, which people can talk to, can be positive. Most of the time, it is easier for some to share with a bot compared to a therapist. Also, AI can help support mental health professionals doing their jobs. Since algorithms can analyze data much faster than humans, AI tools can suggest possible treatments, monitor a patient’s progress, and alert them of any concerns.

Fortunately, artificial intelligence can help. Experts argue that psychiatry could benefit from AI’s ability to analyze data and pick up on patterns and warning signs that mental health professionals might never notice / Photo by: Dmytro Zinkevych via Shutterstock

 

Using AI in psychiatry seems to be a great solution for mental health professionals. A recent survey conducted by Serno, a global networking platform open to licensed physicians, in partnership with psychiatry and health technology researchers at Duke University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, reported that about 50% of psychiatrists believe that AI and machine learning will significantly transform the way they work. 

According to MJH Life Sciences via Psychiatric Times, the largest privately held medical media company in the US, the majority of psychiatrists stated that future technology would be unlikely to replace physicians for complex tasks. This includes mental status examination (67%), assessing the risk of violence (58%), and determining the need for hospitalization (55%).

AI Speech-Based Mobile App

Peter Foltz, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, stated that apps that incorporate AI could allow mental health professionals to monitor their patients remotely. This allows them to alert their patients to issues or changes that arise between appointments. According to Time, an American weekly news magazine and news website, this way of communicating with patients is crucial because previous studies showed that regularly checking in with patients who are suicidal or in mental distress can keep them safe.

Recently, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) developed a speech-based mobile app powered by AI. This app aims to categorize patients’ mental status better than humans, which can help mental health professionals in diagnosing mental illnesses. The study published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin stated that this machine learning system will be able to detect daily changes in the patient’s speech, hinting at mental health decline.

Recently, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) developed a speech-based mobile app powered by AI / Photo by: graphbottles via Shutterstock

 

According to Analytics Insight Magazine, a media, branding, and technology platform with a unique focus on insights, trends, and opinions from the world of data-driven technologies, the mobile app works by asking patients to answer a 5- to 10-minute series of questions by talking to their phones. They will be asked to tell a short story, listen to a story, and repeat it. Also, they will be asked about their emotional state and be given a series of touch-and-swipe motor skills tests. After the test, the ML system would rate the patient’s mental state.

“Language is a critical pathway to detecting patient mental states. Using mobile devices and AI, we are able to track patients daily and monitor these subtle changes,” Foltz said. 

The mobile app would also assess the speech samples of the patients and compare them to previous samples. The researchers stated that they hope for a day when AI systems they’re developing for psychiatry could share the same space with a therapist and a patient. “We are not in any way trying to replace clinicians. But we do believe we can create tools that will allow them to better monitor their patients,” Foltz added. 

Indeed, AI is a great tool in helping mental health professionals with their job. At the same time, it helps patients recover from their mental health struggles and live better lives.