Technology & Therapy

The big question is this: are we comfortable talking to technology?

The Case For The Robot 

A common statement made about any form of human-to-computer interaction is that, “nobody will talk to a robot”. When you consider that we all use online banking services to move our personal finances around; organise our insurance policies; access our health details… we’re already talking to a robot of sorts.

So the bigger question may be, “will we become comfortable speaking to technology about what is going on in our heads?”.

From Eliza To Ellie

The US Army is investigating the prospect of robot therapists for soldiers to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

While there are already post-tour surveys to assess mental health, military officers can be reluctant to divulge mental health issues. Experts suggested it is largely out of fear that their answers could affect their career prospects.

The US Army recognised that this reluctance to talk had links to rocketing rates of PTSD-related suicides, shootings and anti-anxiety prescriptions.

There is a stigma attached to disclosing to anyone you have depression. If we cannot bring our problems out into the open, it can make it very difficult for anything to be solved. We all recognise when our employer is paying lip service to our wellbeing and so we find it easier to say nothing; do nothing; stagnate; and leave.

2019 Fear Survey, Human Associates

The University of South California developed Ellie – a robot giving the appearance of humanity, to build a social rapport, without the feeling that the US military officers would be judged. The findings of this is that the servicemen were up to three times more likely to reveal symptoms of post-traumatic stress to Ellie, the virtual chatbot, than on the official post-deployment health assessment (PDHA). 

There are also questions about prejudgement and bias.

The 2019 Fear Survey by Human Associates described how people are uncomfortable in publicising any anxiety or depression. Reasons for this can range from fear that the boss will ‘hold it against them’ when considering people for promotions, new projects, etc. through to the cultural aspect of “it’s not something that we talk about”.

Where there are organisations encouraging long hours as a badge of honour, sacrificing the work-life balance, failing to allow staff to have downtime from their mobile devices then we may have a corporate culture that is uncomfortable with what they perceive to be signs of weakness.

The main causes cited for work-related stress include the need to meet tight deadlines, too much work, pressure or responsibility.

Further to this is the fact that over 17% of 18-20 year olds suffer with depression – and this is a generation more inclined to using technology for conversation.

Litha is a technology-based therapist: non-judgemental; completely unbiased; available all day, every day.

Litha, AI Therapist

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