The final paragraph of Claudia’s article is full of possibility, but also a warning:
The future potential for data-driven mental healthcare is an exciting one. If implemented ethically and responsibly, chatbot technologies and “digital phenotyping” could greatly improve our understanding of the causes of mental health, giving patients the ability to better manage their health. However, this will remain rhetoric rather than reality if we fail to put patients at the centre.
I’m interested in using technology as part of mental health treatment because we have a severe lack of available resources right now. The short-fall is so bad that there’s no easy way to fix it. We can’t simply go out and find tens of thousands more people to work in this field tomorrow. We’ve got to look at various options, including the ones she mentions in the article.
But, we also have to be careful to remain ethical, and focused ultimately on what works. Having a flashy, high tech, treatment method that doesn’t actually help anyone is a waste, at best, and could be doing more harm to people, at worst. If a chatbot, or an app, can supplement current mental health treatment options, great. If it’s simply getting in the way of treatment that actually works, not so great.
But, without trials, and experiments, we won’t know. We won’t have any answers for the lack of available treatment options for groups in rural areas, or poor communities, or people all over the world who cannot access care for myriad reasons. Those people deserve better options if we can find them. Hopefully, technology can help us do that.