As more and more of our lives shift into the online realm, so have many of the services that we use regularly. This includes mental health services and therapy. 

The need for mental health support is reaching all-time highs for many reasons: 

  • Mental health stigma is diminishing 
  • Employers are realizing mental health is an essential part of productivity 
  • People are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and worry worldwide
A young girl with black hair and a pink sweater and backpack stands on the left side of the frame, in front of a blurry urban scene. The girl stares straight at the camera with a content expression on her face. 

On the right side of the frame a friendly looking white robot, about the same height as the girl, stands facing her, with its hand outstretched towards her. The robot has a touchscreen tablet device mounted on its chest, and it has pink and white flower garlands around its neck.

The girl rests her left hand on top of the robot's outstretched hand.  Could be a mental health chatbot
Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

While demand is at an all-time high for mental health support, access can be full of barriers. An opportunity is emerging though, and it involves embracing AI as an integral part of the therapy process. 

Counsellors have a heavy load of patients, and finding a counsellor in the first place can be challenging. Barriers to access include: 

  • Limited availability
  • Affordability
  • Insufficient policies for mental health care implementation
  • Lack of education about mental health
  • Stigma about mental health

Initiatives like #BellLetsTalk Day are working to breakdown the stigma about mental health while fundraising to support community mental health programs across Canada. Bell has helped fund many programs, and in particular, they have helped support 792,636 Canadians via technology-based mental health programs. Even chatbots are now being used to deliver mental health care.

I received a call from the school nurse, who put my son on the line. My son told me he was very sad and was feeling depressed. I immediately went to my son’s school to pick him up. Before we left, we met with one of the administrators, who helped my son feel a little better. The whole afternoon I couldn’t stop thinking about how sad my son was when I arrived at the school. A few hours later, when I went upstairs for some quiet time, it hit me that my son may be depressed…just like me. What I love about this image is the raw emotion that shows just how hard parenting can be sometimes.
mental health chatbots can help even from the comfort of your bed.
Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

Mental Health Chatbots In Action

Wysa is an online platform that is accessible to anyone 24/7 for free through an app on iOS or Android devices. The app is described as a buddy to cheer you up and track your wellbeing. It includes daily meditations for mental health, and it can even be used as a family meditation experience. With Wysa, you have support to stay emotionally healthy by: 

  • Tracking your mood
  • Finding optimism
  • Practicing thought reframing with CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
  • Reducing sadness

Wysa helps you learn more about mental health and can connect you with a human therapist, who will offer you support via text message. Support from a real human therapist costs just under $100USD a month for four live sessions. In many parts of the world, the average price of seeing a licensed therapist is over $100 per hour. 

Woebot is another app for iOS and Android-based devices that can help you cope with challenging feelings and experiences. The app can prompt you for a check-in every day, to track your moods, and guides you through CBT-based techniques, mindfulness, and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Woebot offers mental health coaching, insights, and skill-building to help you learn to effectively manage your mental health. It’s available when you need it, and it’ll even make you smile with funny jokes and stories. 

Woebot also teaches about mental health and tracks your progress over time. The tracking features of these apps can help identify trends in experiences and times of year that might set off mental health symptoms. 

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Talk through your feelings or vent with Wysa mental health chatbot
Photo by Wysa on Instagram

8 Reasons a Mental Health Chatbot Can Supplement Therapy

Could a conversational AI chatbot help deliver effective mental health treatment? Here are eight reasons you might be looking to a bot for your next therapy session:

  1. Chatbots are available 24/7, whenever people need support.
  2. Mental health chatbots are more affordable than traditional therapy; most are free for users. 
  3. Chatbots can help an individual cope between appointments with their human therapist. 
  4. The patient doesn’t have to go anywhere or dress up for a video call; they just converse with the chatbot from home. 
  5. Chatbots are accessible, providing options for the visually impaired or hard-of-hearing clients. 
  6. Therapists can deploy their chatbots to monitor at-risk patients between appointments in a low-pressure way. 
  7. Many people prefer to talk to a chatbot than to a real human, so they’re more likely to engage. 
  8. Talking to a bot may not trigger anxiety the same way that face-to-face or phone conversations can for some people, making treatment more likely to succeed.

Chatbots can help people get improved access to mental health care services, and bridge a gap for individuals who may not be able to access the services via traditional methods. Mental health chatbots are an excellent step in breaking down common barriers to help people manage their mental health care. 

Reach out to one of our experts if you have any questions about how a chatbot could be put to use in the healthcare industry, and beyond.