Clinician scientists from NTU Singapore have found that mental health chatbots are able to effectively engage people with depression in empathetic conversations and assist in the treatment of their symptoms.
Chatbots or conversational agents are computer programmes that simulate human conversations. They are increasingly used in healthcare, for example, to help manage mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety and for general well-being.
The researchers analysed nine mental health chatbots from leading app stores, of which five had at least 500,000 downloads, to see whether they offered self-help for people with depression. The chatbots evaluated include Wysa, which is used by the Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT) on mindline.sg.
This study by doctors from NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine is among the first to analyse user-Chatbot dialogues to evaluate their effectiveness.
Depression affects 264 million people globally and is undiagnosed and untreated in half of all cases, according to the World Health Organisation. In Singapore, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in mental health concerns, which include depression.