AI can give psychological first aid, curb mental health burden in India: Expert

April 24, 2024
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be an effective tool in providing psychological first aid, which may help curb the rising burden of mental health issues

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be an effective tool in providing psychological first aid, which may help curb the rising burden of mental health issues in India, said Samir Parikh, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chairperson, Fortis Healthcare on Wednesday.

Speaking to IANS, the mental health expert noted that AI may not only boost cost-effective care but also reach the masses, as niche experts are fewer in this sector.

“The prevalence of mental illnesses and mental health concerns are very high. But the number of experts in the domain is very low. And these experts are also disproportionately distributed,” Samir said.

He noted that the number of experts dwindles, beyond metro cities, in Tier – III, and IV, and even further while moving towards district, and rural levels.

According to the latest data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, about 60 to 70 million people in India have been reported to suffer from common and severe mental disorders.

“India’s mental health burden is estimated at $2-3 billion with about one in every eight people estimated to be suffering from a mental health disorder in some form. Hence, mental wellness solutions are pertinent, especially in a society like India where mental health is deeply stigmatised leading to lack of awareness,” said Samir while launching ‘Adayu Mindfulness’– a dedicated vertical for comprehensive mental health care at Fortis, in collaboration with United We Care and Adayu.

“I do believe that digital India and AI interventions are the way forward for a country like ours, as well as for a large part of the developing world where we need to ensure that cost-effective and highest outreach is needed for mental health care, given the fact that experts are less,” he added.

But when it comes to mental health, is AI on par with humans?

“AI is not substituting clinical expertise, rather it is supporting,” Samir said, noting that AI can help in screening and help understand whether a person must see a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

“There are some people who will have distress, some will require a bit of assistance and help, but not expert intervention in terms of therapy. This help could be about self-correction, basic guidance, some self-help, some do-it-yourself, some educator videos or content, but given by reliable sources, which also come from a clinically evidence-based background.

“So psychological first aid can be given. AI can listen, give some education, help people understand what to do, provide lifestyle-related support, thought-related support which means helping with positive thinking affirmations, among others,” said the doctor.

At the same time, it can also screen the patients and rule out the presence of a condition that requires an expert intervention.

“So AI can help in psychological therapy, guidance and it can also help in the continuity of treatment and compliance as well as overall relapse management.”

“Available 24/7 in a scientific evidence-based manual, and under the supervision of experts, AI is not about substituting or being at par with human support, rather it will work as an adjunct as a support system,” the doctor said.

–IANS

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