Opinion Based Blog

Mental Health and AI: A silent solution calling for the Future


Author(s): Kirti Kumar, 5th year student at Lloyd law college.

Introduction

“Hello, how are you? All well, is there something which you want to share?” This question may appear to be very common in everyone’s cyclic lives. But are we really giving this as much recognition as it deserves? Or we are just habituated to give a subconscious reply that ‘I am fine’. People are naive enough to understand its importance. Today, every individual is having a helter-skelter lifestyle which is filled with competition, workload, betrayal, heartbreak, disagreement and other negative aspects leading up to stress, tension and anxiety. Yet most of us are taught to ignore the pressure and keep on going without even acknowledging the intensity of the matter which affects our mental health.

Mental health can be described as a relationship of an individual with their minds as well as themselves. It is a state of being well and able to work properly and know the potential of themselves along with contributing their equal parts within the society. Mental health refers to the condition in which the person is psychologically well, emotionally correct and behaves nicely. It is a condition in which no mental disorder exists and the individual has the control on his choices, proving solving capacity and behaviour towards others. The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.”[1]

The easiest its definition looks the hardest it is in actuality to maintain a good mental health in today’s world. Everybody, irrespective of their age, gender or community, has a risk to develop some or other kind of mental illness in current time. There are many factors which can cause mental health to be disturbed. Those factors are categorised and mentioned below:

  • Social acceptance: Believe me or not but every individual on this planet has some or other kind of inferiority complex. Whether it may be related to a person’s skin tone, height, weight, body structure, baldness, dressing style, sexual orientation, caste, religion, economic condition etc, but every person is looking forward to being socially accepted by others in the society. If they are criticised for the same then it can cause a major disturbance in their mental health condition. Being a LGBTQ member, marrying someone of other caste or religion, being too far or skinny, short heightened, wearing small clothes and many others are some of the prominent unacceptable things in our so called perfect society which consider itself morally correct and filled with sacraments but instead it shows it’s hypocritical nature as how it ignores the problem and did not think about the mental illness which can occur due to its actions.
  • Economic pressure: Every material thing in this world is purchased with money, even such pious sacrament like marriage, education and other services are obtained by monetary value. So having less income or belonging to a poor section of society can easily build streets over the people.
  • Biological reason: Sometimes the mental health disturbance can happen just because it is carried in the genes of the individual. Persons with the family history of any kind of mental illness are very much prone to develop the same within them.

Kinds of mental health disorders and its seriousness

Mental health disorders are not a common problem but people often tend to overlook or ignore such disorders or they prevent themselves from talking about the same. Neither they go to the doctors nor they take the medicines required. According to psychologist it has been seen that people with certain mental disorders are more like to commit suicide than others. It is currently one of the most serious issues around the globe. According to the estimation of National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 1 out of 5 adults is having some or other kinds of mental health problem every year in the United States[2]. According to the report of National Mental Health Survey of India which happened in 2015-16 proposed that currently there are 150 million Indians out there who require medication for mental disorders. The report stated that 1 out of every 20 people are depressed. It was reported that mental disorders are about 13.5 percent in  urban areas and 6.9 percent in rural areas[3]. So after observing the data of two countries it can be recognised how serious this problem is.

There are several kinds of mental illness which are common in the pollution, some of them are mentioned below:

  1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This type of stress occurs after a person has undergone any severe traumatic event in their past such as any death, accident, rape, losing a child etc. In this condition it is very common that people may think they have lost their control over their own lives.
  2. Anxiety attacks: The anxiety disorders can be triggered by any such circumstance by which the diseased is afraid like relationship breakup, failing in an exam, losing the job etc. Anxiety can be seen through physical symptoms such as restlessness, less sleep and muscle pain.
  3. Psychosis: It is one of the most severe mental illnesses and it can lead the diseased to perceive reality in a whole different way apart from the normal people. People suffering from psychosis can hear voices in the head which they address as a dream, they can suffer hallucinations in which they see something that is not real, they can even feel the touch and smell which is unreal and they also suffer with delusion.
  4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Person suffering from this illness suffers with the problem of compulsion, repetitions and obsessions and there can be an urge to perform an act again and again.
  5. Depression: It is the most common mental illness present in today’s society. Person suffering from it can have suicidal tendencies, low mood, loss of interest in everything and they will always want to be alone.

Treatment of Mental illness

Such serious problems shall be treated as fast as possible and any individual shall refrain from hiding it inside himself or herself. There are various types of treatment available out there. People can attend the Psychologist who are the doctors specialised for the treatment of such illness. Even the psychiatrist or psychotherapist are for the same purpose and the treatment can be done through group therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy etc. The treatment for such illness can be done through medication and drugs also. Those who are suffering from such illnesses with a low intensity can help themselves on their own through reading, engaging in activities which makes them happy, watching movies, having a balanced diet and by doing meditation.

In today’s world Mental illness is also being treated with the help of artificial intelligence devices and applications . These AIs are for the replacement of psychological doctors. They are designed in such a manner to recognise any kind of mental health in the people just like the doctors. But the question arises here that whether the AIs are really compatible to do the jobs of Psychologists ? Will they do the treatment properly and can it really observe human behaviour with accuracy? This is a major debate today.

Usage of Artificial Intelligence in Mental Health Treatment

After the pandemic of COVID-19 the whole world is experiencing a mental health crisis. People have lost their loved ones, jobs, houses and of course so many lives. Regrettably there is a clear lack of mental health professionals out there so artificial intelligence is introduced in this sector too. AIs are designed to analyse social media and they choose language hints which describe a kind of depressed behaviour of the users. These intelligence systems are designed in a way that they can read the faces, tone of speaking and behaviour to analyze the mental illness or suicidal behaviours of the people.

There are many applications present on the internet which are made for the purpose of providing mental help to the patients. Ginger’s Contribution[4] is an application designed for chatting and to provide mental health facilities to the population. The algorithm of the application monitors the words used by the people and then matches it with 2 billion samples of behavioural data and 2 million clinical assessments and then the application gives the solution to the person.  Another such application is Bark[5]. It is a kind of phone tracker application which analyses the social media applications of the phone and try to recognise the signs of any mental illness, suicidal behavior and cyber bullying.

There are several advantages of using artificial intelligence to provide mental health facilities .

  1. AI is covering the shortage of mental health professionals . As it can be seen that there is a lack of doctors for mental health facilities hence the AI can easily cover this shortage. It can be available in every device of the internet and can work faster and suggest possible treatment speedily.
  2. It is always less costlier than the fees of the health professionals even in some cases it can be of free service.
  3. It can be available at any moment unlike the doctors who are available for the fixed hours and there is always a big issue of taking appointments.
  4. Artificial intelligence can work and analyze the behavioural symptoms way faster than a person and can also work efficiently.
  5. There will be a comfort in talking to the AI unlike the doctors where people are uncomfortable to share the problems and they try to hide some or other things from them.

Along with advantages, there comes the disadvantages which are many related to the aspect of making Artificial Intelligence replace the mental health professionals.

  1. There is a major problem of accuracy when it comes to matters of artificial intelligence used methods of solving mental illness. As we know, health professionals are also people the same as the mentally ill patient so they are more capable of understanding the behaviour of the patient because they will be able to relate to them. Unlike the AI which runs on the limited amount of data fed in it. AIs are clearly incapable of thinking or adapting hence in many conditions it will fail to give the accurate solution related to the mental illness. It has been proved that human minds are very unpredictable and unique in their own way so the accurate treatment of it is only possible through another human mind and not some system which runs on the data.
  2. The AIs which will have the control of the social media platforms of the individuals will put them at the risk of privacy hindrance. As their energy lives will be monitored by some company who will have all the data and secrets of their lives which is a very serious issue and in other ways it can be recognised as passive control over the users.
  3. Another major issue arises related to the lack of legislation in this matter. Like who will be responsible for the AI if it will provide some vague solution to the patient, about the regulation, terms and conditions of the parent company of these AIs, laws prohibiting the sharing of personal data of individuals and other related laws.

Conclusion

Though AI is undoubtedly becoming the part of everything in today’s society and hence the same is the matter with the Mental healthcare system. Artificial intelligence is such a powerful tool as it can work without any rest with such great speed and efficiency. But clearly it can be observed that mental health and mental illness is such a big, delicate and diverse issue today and it must be addressed with great precautions so that it does not become worse than earlier. In order to do so, a Human health professional and the artificial intelligence system needs to work jointly. AIs can store a large amount of data and it can suggest the result very fast hence those suggestions can help the doctors to determine the actual problem and give their own modified opinion on the issue and in this way it will decrease the workload of doctors as well as retain the authority of final decision making step with the Humans. In the current period our technologies are not so strong that they can be considered as a dependable source in such a delicate issue and even our legislation proposed a complete lack in the governance of such AIs and the parent companies. It can be easily observed that the future of AI in the mental healthcare system is very much promising but it shall be only used and implemented if it is dependable and accurate. Till then we shall avail the facility of human Psychologist, Psychiatrist and Therapist as well as the legislation provided under the Mental Health Care Act, 2017[6] which focuses on providing mental health facilities to the mentally ill patient, protects their rights at the same time and gives some other rights to the person suffering from the mental illness.


References

[1] Mental health: strengthening our response, World Health Organisation (Mar. 30,2018), https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-res.

[2] NAMI, Mental Health By the Numbers, nami National Alliance on Mental Illness (Mar. , 2021), https://www.nami.org/mhstats.

[3] National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bengaluru, National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16: Summary, People’s Archive of Rural India (2016), https://ruralindiaonline.org/en/library/resource/national-mental-health-survey-of-india-2015-16-summary.

[4] Bernard Marr, The Incredible Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Now Used In Mental Health, Forbes (May 03, 2019, 12:23 a.m.), https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/05/03/the-incredible-ways-artificial-intelligence-is-now-used-in-mental-health.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

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