Mental Health Technology: Care or Hazard?

The huge advances in technology – notably in the field of artificial intelligence – in recent years have had an impact in all spheres, not least in the field of mental health and healthcare. A Google search for ‘mental health app’ returns over three million hits alone. The always-online human being of today has 24-hour access to help, progress monitoring and a greater understanding of mental health issues, all through their mobile devices. But while the benefits are numerous, there is also a downside.

With AI being the buzzword of the moment, many of us are turning to chatbots such as ChatGPT to generate text and other content and learn more about current and historical events. The AI tech, however, can do so much more than write in natural-sounding language, and chatbot therapists have become a real thing in the past year. Users cite convenience, anonymity, price, consistency, support and consistency as reasons for reaching out to technology instead of seeking human mental health support, while there is also the fact that such support is always available, even in the middle of the night (but remember that there are always people and professional organisations you can also reach out to). The technology also benefits mental health professionals, who have discovered that their outreach has improved, as has their data collection and ability to encourage visitors to learn about any issues they face.

But researchers are also exploring the potential downsides to the technology. Is it really effective? Does the one-size-fits-all approach do more harm than good? Are your ‘consultations’ really anonymous? How closely is such therapy monitored and regulated by the experts? These are all very important questions that need to be answered before we can truly label this trend a success.

There is clearly a bright future for the technology and the associated apps and tools, for business developers, organisations and the consumers themselves. But the watchword is to tread cautiously, and to always remember that loved ones and professionals are standing by to help you move forward.