COVID19, Mental Health & Artificial Intelligence — Part1

(This article is 1 of 3 on Covid19, Mental Health & AI.)

Covid19 has impacted all of our lives in ways that we never anticipated. The pandemic came out of the blue, and we were all unprepared for it. It plunged us all into unknown territory — nobody knew what to expect or how to deal with the difficult changes that it was bringing into our lives.

Has COVID19 impacted mental health?

The pandemic has worsened and provoked risk factors that affect mental well-being and contribute to increased stress levels. Lockdown and physical distancing have led to increased loneliness, social isolation, fear of the unknown, economic hardships and limited access to support services. Feelings of frustration and unpredictability can lead people to substance abuse and other forms of online help like online gambling which further worsens any situation.

Youth and elderly are especially at a high risk of developing anxiety and depression. Studies of previous pandemics show that quarantined youth & elderly are more likely to develop acute stress disorder than other ages.

Supporting data

COVID-19 and Life Stressors Impact on Mental Health and Well-being surveys are being conducted to collect data and study if there is an increase in depression and anxiety cases post-pandemic.

An increased percentage of adults (1 in 3 after pandemic as opposed to 1 in 10 before pandemic) are reporting that their mental health is negatively impacted by the pandemic due to worry and stress.

Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Various organizations are conducting surveys and research on the impact of lockdown inflicted changes on children. The research demonstrates that COVID-19 is adversely affecting the mental health of children and youth. Children and adolescents are experiencing depression, stress, anger, and anxiety due to school closures, lack of structure, no physical activity and reduced or no social interaction, in addition to changed family situations due to COVID. Studies show that there could be a long term impact of some of the pandemic induced factors on mental health, even up to several years later.

Challenges with mental health service responses during a pandemic

Due to lockdown and physical distancing measures, mental health services are not as available as before, even though the pandemic has increased the need for these resources. A survey conducted by WHO (World Health Organization) across 130 countries revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in majority of countries (93%) worldwide while the demand for mental health help is actually increasing.

How can AI help?

One of the advantages that AI has, is to offer alternative solutions to mental health care during lockdown. AI can help mitigate the challenge introduced by reduced access to mental health services by providing online helpful alternatives such as Chatbots, that are easier to access and available 24/7. Chatbots can help provide some answers and resources to those seeking help .

Another use of AI is that machine learning can help us track the pandemic’s impact on mental health. We can use artificial intelligence in the prediction of mental health disorders induced by the COVID-19 pandemic among adults, elderly, youth, health care workers, and other such groups. This can be done by analysis of demographic data, health care data, and social media posts to identify trends and patterns, which helps us come up with targeted solutions for the mental health crisis occurring in communities all over the world.

Divya Sikka is a Student Ambassador in the Inspirit AI Student Ambassadors Program. Inspirit AI is a pre-collegiate enrichment program that exposes curious high school students globally to AI through live online classes. Learn more at https://www.inspiritai.com/.

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Divya Sikka

Divya Sikka

Student

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