Can artificial intelligence help depression?

Due to the preference for convenience and instant feedback, artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining popularity among patients in mental and behavioral health care. According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), major depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in the United States.

Depression may be common, but many people cannot get treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2016 report on drug use and health, only 63% of adults were confirmed to have at least one major depression and reported receiving any type of treatment.

For adolescents with major depression, the numbers are even more worrying: According to the SAMHSA survey, only 40% of adolescents who had at least one episode of major depression received treatment.

Statistics about people with untreated depression have prompted the development of alternative mental health care approaches, many of which take advantage of technological advances. Here are a few ways AI can help people control depression, and what the technology cannot do.

What artificial intelligence can provide for mental health treatment

In an emotion-centric therapy model, emotionally safe people are easily approachable, responsive, and attractive. These are the qualities that researchers and programmers in the field of artificial intelligence hope to bring to technology-based mental health care.

Accessibility and responsiveness

With 24/7 availability, AI applications can provide unprecedented accessibility at very low cost. These programs collect data so that they can establish a certain degree of therapeutic relationship with users and provide relevant responses.

As the program learns more about users and collects more data, engagement continues to increase. Through this process, the application can better detect and strive to meet the user’s personal behavior and emotional health goals and needs.

Privacy and anonymity

Many people value their privacy and enjoy the services that anonymous technology can provide. Considering the sensitive and personal nature of shared content in consultation and treatment, programs that use artificial intelligence that users can use anonymously may be an attractive asset.

Access and stigma

AI-based depression resources also hope to address other barriers to mental health treatment, such as lack of providers in rural areas, stigma associated with mental illness, and fear, guilt, or shame that may prevent people with depression from getting treatment.

The benefits of artificial intelligence

Using artificial intelligence to help manage depression has several potential benefits, from improving access to coordinated care, but the technology also has some limitations.


Traditional outpatient consultations include a 50-minute meeting with the therapist scheduled once or twice a week. To make an appointment, you need to find a time that fits your schedule in the therapist’s schedule.

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In order to participate consistently in the courses you arrange, you may need to take time off at work or school or make other arrangements (such as taking care of your children). You also need to consider the time required to travel to and from the office, depending on the distance between the consulting resource and your place of residence.

The main benefit of applications and programs created using artificial intelligence is the ability to access convenient and low-cost mental health resources. Most of the available mental health applications and platforms provide resources that users can access via smartphones, tablets, or laptops anytime, anywhere. They are also readily available. You can use these apps during the day or night, weekends, holidays, or any other time that suits your schedule.

These apps are also low-to-free alternatives compared to the cost of treatment and the cost of missing work, commuting and other needs.


In the field of mental health, a major predictor of a positive counseling experience is the rapport established between the client and the counselor. The relationship established during therapy builds trust and creates a safe space to express challenging emotions and discuss difficult experiences.

Forged connections are a key part of the healing process. People who develop artificial intelligence-based applications consult large amounts of data and research to create programs that help people feel connected and understand.

In addition to establishing emotional connections, artificial intelligence can also connect people with the help they need when they are not available. In rural and remote areas, mental health resources may be few and far apart. In addition, the available resources may not meet the needs of the entire community.

The ability to acquire and use mental health resources designed using artificial intelligence may be a lifeline of hope for people in areas where there is little or no affordable, accessible, and available help.


Although humans are naturally connected and can recognize the benefits of personal counseling and treatment for treating depression, barriers may prevent people from getting the help they need.

The stigma of mental illness and its treatment has been reduced, but it still exists in society. The stigma of depression can make it harder for people to feel empowered and safe when seeking treatment.

The use of mobile apps and artificial intelligence platforms enables people to safely access mental health services in their personal living spaces, thereby eliminating the possibility of others knowing that someone is receiving treatment, such as rubbing up with acquaintances when going somewhere. Shoulder to shoulder. Counselor’s office.

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Most of the content that will be discussed in depression counseling involves emotional damage, painful experiences and fears, and other tricky topics that make people feel vulnerable. For some people, discussing and sharing this information anonymously, rather than face-to-face, can be less daunting.

The ability to protect personal privacy when discussing mental health, coupled with the flexibility to discuss from one’s own space when it is convenient, makes these AI-designed depression applications attractive and potentially useful. However, it should be borne in mind that this technology has some limitations.

Limitations of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence-driven applications and programs eliminate or at least minimize many barriers that may prevent people from seeking and receiving help for depression.

However, although the research and development of technology-based mental health resources continue to improve, these applications are not intended to replace any clinical treatment of mental health conditions, including depression.

It is also important to educate clinicians on how to use AI technology for patients. A global survey of more than 700 psychiatrists found that although most people believe that artificial intelligence will become a routine part of their clinical practice (especially for documentation), many people do not believe in the therapeutic benefits of the technology- Especially when compared to potential risks.

Artificial intelligence robots and apps for depression

Here are some examples of popular technologies based on artificial intelligence that can be used to help people manage depression. Although these apps cannot diagnose or treat mental health conditions, they may be a supplement for people who work with doctors or mental health practitioners.


WoeBot was launched in the summer of 2017 and is called an automated dialogue agent, also known as a chatbot. It aims to provide users with self-help-related guidance and companionship by imitating human conversations, and to provide convenient care for patients with depression.

The program can share information and resources, such as videos and exercises, with you based on what it thinks you need at the time. WoeBot can be used anonymously on iOS, and you can also chat with it through Facebook Messenger.

The foundation of WoeBot is designed under the influence of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a treatment framework designed to help people change unhelpful thinking and behaviors, and improve mood and decision-making under ideal conditions.

As you continue to chat with WoeBot, it collects data through natural language processing (NLP) and uses this information to better understand you.

The collected information enables the program to more accurately detect and meet your emotional needs at a specific time, and provide personalized resources, self-help guidance, information and support related to your problems.

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Wysa is an “emotional intelligence” robot based on artificial intelligence, which the company claims can “help you manage your emotions and thoughts.”

Like WoeBot, Wysa’s design is based on CBT principles to help users challenge and change thoughts and behaviors. Wysa also combines dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), meditation practice, and motivational interviews into the chat.

Wysa can be used anonymously, but like other AI applications, it collects data when users chat to improve the accuracy of its interpretation of user behavior and mental health needs and goals.

Although the chatbot service is free, the company that developed Wysa recommends that users purchase a monthly subscription to provide the opportunity to interact with human Wysa coaches.


X2AI’s Tess is described as “a kind of psychological artificial intelligence that can manage highly personalized psychological education and health-related reminders on demand.”

The program is a text-based message conversation that users can access through Facebook Messenger, SMS text messages, web browsers, and smartphone apps.

Through consistent message delivery, Tess’s accumulated data informs its response, with the goal of providing the most relevant guidance to the user. In addition to tracking the user’s goals, the interventions suggested by Tess are also influenced by the cognitive behavioral therapy framework.


This free app for iOS and Android uses AI chatbot technology to help users discuss their symptoms, behaviors, and patterns. The company calls Youper an “emotional health assistant” and provides personalized feedback and insights based on what it learns in daily text conversations with users.

At the beginning of the chat session, users can communicate their needs from Youper. For example, the user may need help managing chronic depression, or may need prompts to reduce current anxiety.

When a user chats with Youper, the robot will filter through various psychological techniques (such as CBT), and provide useful guidance to the user according to the user’s needs and goals.

At the end of the conversation, Youper provides a summary that can help users track symptoms, emotions, and patterns over time.

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Applications, platforms, and other technologies that use artificial intelligence to help people manage depression and other mental health conditions provide many benefits, but they also have limitations. Although these products solve access gaps and may help people overcome barriers to seeking mental health support and resources, they are not intended to replace clinicians in diagnosing conditions or prescribing medications or psychiatric treatments.