How Did We Get Here? The Mental Health Crisis as Told by Experts, and How AI Will Save Us.
Most articles would begin with alarming statistics, discussing the recently updated global burden of disease and calculated years of life lost (YLL) for mental health disorders published in The Lancet in Jan 2022. As professionals, we are already aware of and deeply entrenched in the worsening mental health crisis so we will skip right to the solution.
In a thought-provoking interview about Artificial Intelligence in Mental Health,
- Donald J. Parker, LCSW, President & CEO of Behavioral Health Care Transformation Services for Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic, and
- Dr. Niraj Jha, Ph.D., MS, B Tech, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Princeton University,
candidly discuss how AI will rescue mental health in NeuTigers AI Talk Series.
The time is now to shift from placating symptoms to “keeping people well,” in the words of Dr. Jha.
“We are in the most challenging time in my 46 years in mental health,” Parker added succinctly after his introduction. “The closest episode in our history to what we’ve just gone through is the Spanish flu.”
The Spanish flu in 1918 infected roughly one-third of the world, which amounted to nearly 500 million people. Worldwide, the Spanish flu killed at least 50 million people. Vaccines and antibiotics were not available at that time, so public health resorted to much of the same measures we’re using right now: isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, disinfectants, and limiting public gatherings.
Parker warned that
“suicidality as a proxy for mental health issues didn’t peak until three years after eradicating the disease. And it is a forbidding kind of thought to say that we are not at the peak of the mental health impact of what we’ve gone through with COVID. We should expect multiple years of impact.”
What is exacerbating the mental health crisis?
Dr. Jha outlined the four culprits:
- Incorrect diagnosis of mental health conditions (stay tuned for how medical sensors in smartwatches and phones can aid in the correct diagnosis).
- Symptom overlap confounds the diagnosis.
- Lapses in care when the patient goes home from the hospital or between therapy/psychiatry visits.
- We practice generalized medical decision-making when mental health treatment needs to be personalized.
Parker summarizes the journey someone takes as they enter the medical system. “It’s an imprecise process that we go through to get a diagnosis.”
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