Technology and Mental Health

How to use AI for Depression Treatment

Mathilde Leroux, Software Developer

In this article, you will be reading about depression, what causes it, and the treatment for it. You will see how AI can be used to treat depression by helping therapists and psychiatrists prescribe the right treatment. Some methods, such as AI robots that have proven to be successful, will be discussed in this article.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and this number is growing every year. Today, Artificial Intelligence and robots solve various problems, but can they help cope with mental illness?

About the depression
There is a theory that the inability to adapt to new conditions can be one of the causes of depression. For example, a person who is disabled due to a severe injury must learn to look at themselves in a new way. If he does not do this and does not accept the new reality, he may become depressed. Depression is the leading cause of disability globally, affecting more than 300 million people of all ages. In severe cases, clinical depression1 can lead to suicide, which has become the second leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 years. In the United States, the cost of depression is estimated at US$210 billion a year. This includes both direct costs in the form of medical care and indirect ones, including the absence of a person from the workplace.

Traditional treatment
Prescribing the proper treatment for depression is often a matter of trial and error. Your psychiatrist suggests some pills, but they don't work or have too many side effects. After a while, you get a new assignment, then another one, until, finally, you find one that turns out to be effective. But all the way, you continue to experience debilitating symptoms of depression. This process itself is considered protracted and painful. Applying the latest advances in machine learning, AI comes to the aid of psychiatrists to prescribe the right antidepressants the first time.

How can AI help?
AI will help automate routine tasks such as psychometric assessments, allowing doctors to take on important tasks without distraction. In addition, AI can also pave the way for new therapies, opportunities to interact with hard-to-reach populations and improve patient response. People en masse are beginning to prefer robots to support their mental health, as they believe robots provide a judgment-free zone, an unbiased opportunity to share concerns and quickly answer health-related questions. In addition, there are more and more medical articles on the web about ways to combat depression, written by AI in collaboration with freelance medical writers2.

Not only AI but robots are helping to cope with anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
While robots have not been scientifically proven to reduce depression and anxiety, they can act like pets with a more intellectual background.

  • The Vector robot communicates with the user. This AI gadget is a small robot. This robot has a curious and attentive personality that makes it think and act like a pet. He is sad when ignored, angry when he loses games and worried when he sees the owner. Vector is a companion built to communicate and help. Powered by artificial intelligence and advanced robotics, the robot is voice-activated and answers questions.
  • The EMAR robot is designed for teens. EMAR is fully adapted software developed by Maya Cakmak, Ph.D. She created a simple visual programming tool for users. This means that teenagers themselves can customise the robot to suit their needs. It can measure stress and mood levels using a touch screen and communicate with users through dialogue. The robot also has a Hug function. The EMAR robot is still under development, but it can already help teenagers complete short exercises. It will tell the young user how to identify and understand their emotions. This, in turn, reduces stress levels.
  • Buddy for kids and seniors. Research shows that children and the elderly can benefit psychologically and socially from an intelligent robot's reliable and friendly help. This allows them to cope better and live in emotionally challenging circumstances. Blue Frog Robotics' Buddy can help with this. The company claims that Buddy's emotional range creates an empathetic connection3 with patients, making it an ideal companion to support hospitalised children and aging patients with chronic or recurrent illnesses.

Problems of using AI
Researchers at the Technical University of Munich examined the ethical implications of robotic therapists and found that robots can manipulate people more easily. Then there is the issue of empathy, a quality that will be difficult to replicate as it cannot be fully automated or programmed, at least not right now.

Final Words
Human connection is critical to address mental health problems effectively. It takes someone with emotion and empathy. Robots or artificial intelligence systems help to a certain extent, of course. Still, when it comes to more complex problems, such as deep-rooted family problems or complex conflicts in relationships, AI will not be able to meet your needs to the fullest.

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Mathilde Leroux

Mathilde is a software developer with four years of experience. I research, design, implement and manage software programs. I test and evaluate new programs identifying areas for modification in existing programs and subsequently developing these modifications.

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