Mental health continues to be an area of great need in our society, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental health disorders at some point in their lives. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact number, as many people might not seek treatment or receive a diagnosis, with social and cultural stigmas continuing to play a part, despite the fact it can affect individuals of all ages, genders and backgrounds.
As we think of the role technology, especially in addressing the disbalance between available healthcare providers and increased demand of those services, AI and AI algorithms could play a role in reducing that gap. From diagnosis through behavioural data and automated assessments, to personalized care through customized recommendations of treatment, technology has the potential of scaling available mental health support.
However, to be truly inclusive, AI systems need to build on inclusive data and design with intersectional considerations in mind (such as culture, language, race, gender and more). Furthermore, user privacy and protection is absolutely paramount. Users must be aware at all times be of how their information is being used and by whom and have full control over it.
In our latest request for proposals for the AI for Accessibility grant program, project submissions gravitated around a few key themes, including: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a modality for delivering mental health services, personalization of support in local languages through text analysis, AI-human partnerships for community-informed care as well as the exploration of wearables in detecting changes in mental health.
The opportunity for culturally inclusive mental health resources
An interdisciplinary team spearheaded by SafeLab, in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and mental health service provider the Center for Black Well-being, is working on developing a web new platform, JoyNet. The platform will focus on culturally relevant resources related to grief and mental health challenges in support of Black youth, which will displayed in accessible and visually appealing ways. Furthermore, the goal is for JoyNet to be used and kept as an open-source code, allowing further expansion to other underrepresented and marginalized communities.