AI for wellbeing: Enhancing mental health services through artificial intelligence

Awareness of mental health issues has grown exponentially over the last several decades. Mental health diagnosis and treatment is now a central part of NHS and private healthcare provision in the UK.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a cutting-edge technology that can help leaders overcome many challenges that still prevail. These include forming complex diagnoses, increasing the accessibility of evidence-based treatments, implementing preventative measures and more. 

In this article, we’ll explore how AI is impacting the UK mental health space and how you can position your organisation to take advantage of the many current opportunities. 


AI's role in mental health diagnosis

Diagnosis is one area where AI involvement has been particularly promising. It can ease triaging, detect symptoms early and prevent flare-ups.

  • Symptoms assessment: AI can act as a co-pilot to more accurately analyse patient data to identify possible psychiatric conditions and as an assistant through therapy sessions easing the burden on human professionals. eMed (formerly Babylon Health) is one example of a company working with the NHS on AI medical diagnosis.
  • Predictive analytics: By interpreting large datasets, AI can identify potential mental health issues, enabling proactive management.
  • Wearable devices and monitoring: These tools continuously collect health metrics, which AI systems evaluate to provide insights into a patient's mental state. UK company Oxehealth is an example of an innovator that has successfully applied monitoring solutions in a mental health capacity.


AI in healthcare: The NHS and beyond

  • In the NHS, AI applications are already transforming mental health care by improving diagnostics, personalised treatment and administrative automation. An array of funds and private-sector partnerships are likely to continue fuelling this trend of innovation.
  • For example, Oxford VR uses virtual reality coupled with AI to deliver tailored treatments for anxiety disorders. These realistic simulations mirror real-world environments and allow for faster exposures and higher-quality monitoring.
  • BioBeats is another notable example of a private-sector company working with the NHS. It focuses on preventative care by analysing biometric data. It uses this to predict and limit stress-related symptoms.


Challenges and ethical considerations

The use of AI in a mental health context does present some ethical challenges, mainly focused on accessibility, accountability and the appropriate role of human oversight. 

  • Bias and fairness: AI systems may exhibit biases based on the data they are trained on, potentially leading to misdiagnosis or unequal healthcare access for certain groups based on ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status.
  • Transparency and explainability: Mental health diagnoses and treatments depend on understanding complex human emotions and behaviours. AI has significant limitations in understanding these multifaceted psychological phenomena. Black-box, abstruse algorithms may complicate the task of providing human oversight. 
  • Consent and autonomy: Using AI to assess or treat mental health conditions involves informed consent, which must be explicit and voluntary. Patients have the right to understand how their data will be used and to make decisions about their treatment options.


How to get started with artificial intelligence in healthcare: 3 steps

AI can have transformative effects for mental health outcomes, but a measured approach is vital. UK leaders can take several practical steps to begin adoption in a safe and sustainable way.

  1. Build safety frameworks: Frameworks that include human accountability, traditional rules, built-in safety checks, full legal compliance and a “human in the loop” approach are vital. 
  2. Empathise with patient needs and fears: Qualitative data from patients helps you understand where to focus your resources and where the need for education and support lies. 
  3. Pursue strategic partnerships: Research initiatives and startups are actively looking to develop partnerships with NHS and private healthcare organisations. Leaders should actively explore partnerships and cultivate an understanding of the innovation space. 



The benefits of integrating AI into mental health services are many. They include reduced administrative costs, better patient outcomes and greater accessibility to services. 

UK leaders that adopt a measured, risk-aware approach are most set to benefit from the myriad of current and potential applications of AI in this space. 

There is no better time to begin testing, implementing and refining AI solutions geared towards mental health. Doing so is one of the best ways to realise immediate gains and future-proof your organisation. 


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