AI’s Potential to Diagnose and Treat Mental Illness

The United States faces a mental health epidemic. Nearly one in five American adults suffers from a form of mental illness. Suicide rates are at an all-time high, 115 people die daily from opioid abuse, and one in eight Americans over 12 years’ old take an antidepressant every day. The economic burden of depression alone is estimated to be at least $210 billion annually, with more than half of that cost coming from increased absenteeism and reduced productivity in the workplace. In a crisis that has become progressively dire over the past decade, digital solutions — many with artificial intelligence (AI) at their core — offer hope for reversing the decline in our mental wellness. New tools are being developed by tech companies and universities with potent diagnostic and treatment capabilities that can be used to serve large populations at reasonable costs. AI solutions are arriving at an opportune time. The nation is confronting a critical shortfall in psychiatrists and other mental health specialists that is exacerbating the crisis. Nearly 40% of Americans live in areas designated by the federal government as having a shortage of mental health professionals; more than 60% of U.S. counties are without a single psychiatrist within their borders. Those fortunate enough to live in areas with sufficient access to mental health services often can’t afford them because many therapists don’t accept insurance.