Everyday use of mental health chatbots

Chatbots are increasingly being developed to assist with mental health and wellbeing. Examples include Wysa, which is reported to have 1,500,000 users, and Woebot which sends around 2 million messages a week to users in over 135 countries.

Rob Meadows and Christine Hine are currently carrying out a series of projects exploring the everyday use of these mental health chatbots. They are talking to people who use chatbots, analysing key documents, scraping app reviews and exploring general perceptions of AI in mental health. 

A key interest throughout is how these technologies work with and against particular meanings of mental health and ‘recovery’.  Initial analysis of online documents suggests that ‘recovery’ is largely missing as an overt focus. However, there is a troubled relationship with traditional ideas of clinical responsibility and an extended virtue of self-care – which suggests that chatbots may be shaped by, and shaping, an increasingly individualised form of a “personal recovery imperative” More detail on this can be found in the following open access article (Meadows et al 2020)

Towards the end of the project Rob and Christine will host a workshop for practitioners and mental health service users. Whilst this will disseminate core findings, it will also look to ask what

Stakeholders think chatbots and other forms of artificial intelligence should be doing in the mental health arena.

Professor Rob Meadows