AI detected depression and anxiety just by listening to a person's voice | Opinion

AI detected depression and anxiety just by listening to a person's voice

AI-enabled tools are being developed to address mental health issues, such as vocal biomarker technology for detecting depression and anxiety. Know all about them.

| Updated on: Aug 23 2023, 17:25 IST
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a leading-edge technology that is contributing to finding innovative solutions to address mental health challenges. (Unsplash)

Mental health is increasingly becoming an issue societies around the world are paying more attention to.

After the pandemic, the prevalence of anxiety disorders has increased 25%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and cases of major depressive disorder increased by 27.6%, according to a study published in medical journal The Lancet.

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At home, a survey last year by India's National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) found that nearly 150 million Indians are in need of mental health care services and The Lancet reported that diagnoses of psychological disorders in India doubled from 1990 to 2017.

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Against this backdrop, the importance of finding innovative solutions to address these mental health challenges becomes even more important. And artificial intelligence (AI) is a leading-edge technology that is contributing to this innovation.

Let's take a look at a few AI-enabled tools aimed at helping solve mental health issues.

Technology to address mental health

Using AI and machine learning (ML)-based solutions to assess a person's health status through apps is a new way to fight mental health issues. Especially when it comes to covering a high population like India with 1,408 billion inhabitants and just 0.75 mental health professionals per 100,000 people.

This is where experts agree that technology can play an important role in healthcare intervention as it can address the significant gap between mental health professionals and the population.

This is the case of Kintsugi led by Grace Chang, a startup pioneering the use of vocal biomarker technology to detect signs of depression and anxiety in the voice of affected individuals. This innovative tool, which focuses on changes in pitch, speed and intonation rather than specific words, has the potential to diagnose and provide ongoing care for mental health issues.

"The technology we use doesn't look at what people say, but how they say it. We don't care about demographic information or the context of what's going on, because we look at the nuances of speech so the algorithm can detect the person's situation," Chang told technology news site 150Sec.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 700,000 people die by suicide each year, not to mention the other number of people who attempt suicide. The WHO suggests that a previous attempt is ultimately the biggest risk factor for suicide.

Solutions such as telehealth, social networking apps, AI, bots and algorithms are providing people and doctors with a new, technology-charged way to offer help, monitor the progress of patients, and intervene in cases where required.

For philanthropist and data scientist Michael Puscar, technologies such as AI have arrived to impact the lives of all people in different industries, including healthcare. "As human beings, it is crucial to be willing to learn and adapt to this technology. I am convinced that this technological revolution will affect the lives of every person on the planet," Puscar told HT Tech.

“There are solutions that are focused on mental health issues. This is just the beginning, but very soon we will witness how AI can positively impact everyone's life,” he added.

Another example is the announcement by Bollywood actor and investor Suniel Shetty, who recently invested in a mental health app called "Lets Get Happi." The project aims to close the care gap in mental health issues.

"This app is an important step in supporting people with mental health tools and online therapy so they can thrive in all aspects of their lives," said Shetty.

The app, which is still in its testing phase, will feature AI technology to enable more accurate responses about each person's situation, in addition to offering games and content such as podcasts.

As awareness of the importance of mental health continues to grow, it is encouraging to see technology being used to provide access, support and treatment to a wide range of people facing mental health challenges.

These are just a few examples of how technology and innovation are being used to address mental health issues. From early detection to access to remote therapy and personalized treatment, technology is playing a key role in promoting mental wellness.

By Stiven Cartagena, Editor of Geektime

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First Published Date: 23 Aug, 16:52 IST