Artificial Intelligence, Speech and Mental Health

Speech can play an integral role when judging a person’s mental health. When examining their patients, psychiatrists and psychologists will often look for certain signals present in a person’s speech – such as their delivery of certain words and phrases – to make judgement about their wellbeing.

Factors such as tone, choices of words and phrase length have all been proven to have a correlation with mental health issues and are all crucial cues to understanding what is happening in someone’s mind.

For example, those examining patients with potential psychosis, which is a major feature of schizophrenia, will always look for a series of verbal clues when determining the status of a patient. Short sentences and muddled, frequent use of worlds such as “this”, “that” and “a” with little correlation between one sentence to the next can all be clear tell-tale verbal tics.

As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, reliable and commonplace in the healthcare industry, researchers are now applying the aforementioned approach, with assistance from machine learning, to accurately diagnose patients with mental disorders.

man having a psychiatrist consultation

 

Back in August last year, a research team were able to develop a workable AI model that predicted – with 100% accuracy – which members of an “at-risk” group of young people would go on to develop psychosis in the next 30 months and which would not.

This was seen as a major breakthrough for medical AI and a significant victory for those championing the benefits of utilising such technology in a mental health setting. Statistics show that doctors have around a 79% accuracy rating when predicting the development of psychosis based on a person’s speech patterns in interviews. AI, it seems, is able to use an automated speech analysis program to go one step further.


“In our study, we found that minimal semantic coherence – the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next – was characteristic of those young people at risk who later developed psychosis. It was not the average. What this means is that over 45 minutes of interviewing, these young people had at least one occasion of a jarring disruption in meaning from one sentence to the next. As an interviewer, if my mind wandered briefly, I might miss it, but a computer would pick it up.”

Guillermo Cecchi, biometaphorical-computing researcher at IBM Research


We’re now a year on from this impressive study, and US diagnostic platform company NeuroLex Diagnostics is looking to build on this work to create a tool for primary care doctors to screen their patients for schizophrenia. Recordings of a patient’s appointment will be taken, with smart device-hosted AI able to analyse a patient’s speech transcript for relevant linguistic clues. The AI will present its finding as a number (like you’d expect with a blood pressure reading, for example) to assist the psychiatrist in making the diagnosis.

NeuroLex’s work will also extend to a post-diagnosis study, aiming to identify which medicines and treatments have been the most effective by determining how speech patterns change during a psychotic stay in hospital.

It would appear that we’ve only just started to scratch the surface when it comes to AI and mental health, but the potential that machine learning offers is undoubtedly exciting for those in the industry – as machines learn more and more, so do our doctors and psychologists. Speech analysis can also be used to track signs of other issues such as depression or bipolar disorder, so further developments in this field have the potential to be incredibly beneficial.


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Mental Health in the Workplace: A Worrying Trend

In his latest blog, Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group Lee Dentith explores the worrying statistics surrounding mental health in the workplace and how an occupational health solution will be beneficial to tackling such issues.

lee-headshot

Last week I came across some extremely disturbing statistics on mental health in the workplace in the United Kingdom. New research has revealed that 57% of employees in this country have suffered from mental health problems whilst in employment and, worryingly, a third say that their employer approaches such issues in a negative way.

The lack of awareness of mental health issues is a worrying trend, with 13% of employees describing their organisation as “dismissive” when it comes to discussing these issues. For too long there has been this negative stigma associated with mental troubles, and these statistics paint a horrifying picture of employer attitudes in this country.

Only half of sufferers admit to opening up to their employer about their mental health-related problems, with the majority deterred from discussing their conditions due to the unhelpful and negative attitudes held by their organisation.

Mental health issues are affecting millions of UK employees each and every day, and a third of respondents to the Canada Life Group survey have criticised employers for offering little to no support to those who are suffering.


Here’s a look at the mental health statistics uncovered by the Canada Life Group survey:

 

  • 57% of UK employees have suffered from mental health problems while in employment.
  • 33% say their employer approaches such issues in a negative way.
  • 13% describe their organisation as “dismissive” to mental health issues.
  • 12% claim their organisation is uncomfortable and awkward when dealing with the subject.
  • 8% describe their employer as “secretive” by refusing to talk about mental health.
  • Only 5% say their organisation is helpful when dealing with mental health issues.
  • 47% of employees suffering have opened up to their employer.
  • 32% say their employer offers no support for those experiencing problems.
  • 25% are unaware of the support, if there is any, offered by their employer.
  • 51% say UK employers need to do more to encourage positive mental health at work.
  • 24% say sufferers are discriminated against in the workplace.

This lack of understanding around mental health simply cannot continue if employers want to be part of our accepting, forward-thinking society. It is absolutely crucial that employers communicate with employees and encourage them to not feel uneasy about opening up about such issues. In terms of help, though, employees need someone to confide in and need advice from an expert – and this isn’t always possible to provide within the workplace itself.

We’ve spent the last few months developing one of the most innovative new branches of the Now Healthcare Group business, with plans to launch Now Occ Health, an occupational health platform, in the second quarter of this year.

Now Occ Health will assist employees in keeping well both physically and mentally within the workplace, with professional psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and occupational health advisers available on demand to discuss any issues that UK workers may have. Advice on physical problems will also be available to those in need, offering preventative care, diagnosis and workplace health tips.

Part of our overall ambition to ensure that all elements of healthcare are accessible and available to each and every one of us, Now Occ Health is just one of several exciting projects we’re working on as a company over the coming months.