- Companies are turning to AI-powered mental health tools to help workers deal with stress and burnout.
- Half of workers experience symptoms of anxiety and more than half of workers have symptoms of depression, according to a recent Deloitte survey.
- While workers want their employers to offer more mental health resources, it may be easier for them to chat with AI chatbots than other humans.
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From burnout to layoff fears, from rising costs to an impending recession, there are many reasons why workers are stressed and want their companies to provide access to mental health resources. One way companies can help is with artificial intelligence.
While employer-provided mental health benefits have increased in recent years, mental health continues to be a chronic issue with half of workers experiencing symptoms of anxiety and more than half of workers experiencing symptoms of depression, according to Deloitte’s 2022 Mental Health in the Workplace report, which surveyed 3,995 people across 12 industries.
In light of Mental Health Awareness Month, companies must be willing to choose health and insurance plans that offer mental health resources, according to Grace Chang, CEO and co-founder of Kintsugi, a company that developed an intelligence-powered tool artificial intelligence that detects signs of depression and anxiety by listening to someone’s voice.
After spending years trying to access mental health resources through his employer-sponsored insurance plans, Chang saw an opportunity to create access to mental health using artificial intelligence.
AI chatbots like ChatGPT can also help employees deal with day-to-day stressors, according to Lucy Roberts, senior consultant for the national engagement and wellbeing practice at OneDigital, a consultancy focused on health, wealth and retirement.
“Some people just need help with day-to-day stressors and AI tools like chatbots can direct them to on-demand resources,” Roberts said. “Chatbots can also be a bridge to connect people with employer-sponsored therapy sessions or help match people with doctors or therapists that are a good fit for their needs.”
As mental health continues to experience stigma in the workplace, Roberts said it may be easier for people to ask a chatbot about available resources without speaking to an HR professional.
Everyday stressors can include issues with time management, home life or economic uncertainty, she added, that workers bring with them to the workplace, so companies need to provide employees with tools to help handle these problems. .
“If I can turn to a chatbot and say, ‘Hey, I’m struggling, I need help’ and it provides a mindfulness exercise or a reading exercise, it can, in the moment, help reduce stress levels,” Roberts said . “We also know that AI and machine learning can provide you with evidence-based best practices, provided you are using a safe and effective AI tool.”
As with the introduction of any new employee resource or tool, Roberts said companies must ensure that the necessary barriers are in place for ethical, safe and accessible use.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of solution you put in place for employees, if they don’t know how to access it or they don’t know it exists, they can’t use it,” Roberts said. “Organizations often have great resources, but employees simply don’t know they’re available to them or don’t know how to access them, so it’s critical to make sure employees are aware of what it is.”
The growing interest in AI and ChatGPT has jobs in every industry tentatively waiting for a disruption. But Kintsugi, Chang said, seeks to take the stress out of medical professions, such as nurses and psychiatrists, by trying to provide mental health care.
Kintsugi uses a signal processing model, or a model that collects sound for analysis, to detect not what words someone is saying, but how they are saying these words to determine if they have anxiety or depression in real time.
“Our app allows people to talk about their challenges and connect with others who may be struggling with the same issues,” Chang said. “We’ve built a voice journaling app, which is used in over 200 international cities, and we’ve had more than 250,000 downloads for the app.”
Using AI to detect mental illness isn’t entirely new, Chang acknowledged. Previous research used machine learning models and the sound of someone’s voice to predict whether they could be classified as depressed or non-depressed.
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