Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence in mental health

Event highlights

13 December 2022

Takeaways: Understanding users to plan services

The key takeaways of the meeting were that big data and artificial intelligence (AI) tools can help us better understand users of mental health services, including what they need and what questions they are asking – flagging those who may be at risk for developing a mental illness. health condition through the use of electronic health records and social media data.

“If big private companies and organizations can create AI-assisted ads to target people who have been to their website once, why can’t we do the same when someone searches in TikTok about mental health, like ‘how do I help my depression or anxiety?’,” said Ben Ogden, social media manager and mental health advocate, who opened the meeting with a powerful story of the potential for AI tools to connect people who need mental health services with those who provide them.

One of the main challenges facing the field is digital exclusion, including ensuring people who lack access to digital technologies or the ability to use them (called “digital literacy”) do not fall through the cracks. This means creating AI tools with the involvement of people living with mental health conditions from the beginning.

“Digital inequalities are the same as social inequalities,” said Dr Joseph Tay Wee Teck, Clinical Director of Forward Leeds.

WHO/Europe is planning further work in this area, including publishing a systematic review on the use of AI models for research on mental health, which will be published in 2023.


Event notice

7 December 2022

WHO/Europe is holding a 1-day hybrid meeting on 7 December focusing on innovations related to Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in the field of mental health. The meeting aims to provide an opportunity to discuss how health policy-makers can make use of these tools to better allocate resources and predict mental health conditions in populations.

The event seeks to bring together professionals working with mental health data and health information systems and on policy-making, with a goal of exploring how to improve existing mental health data using emerging Big Data analytics and AI-powered tools and providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and country experiences on implementing these tools in decision-making.

AI-assisted mental health reform

The mental health and well-being of the WHO European Region has been hit hard by several large-scale public health emergencies over the past few years, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and an increasing cost-of-living crisis. .

While mental health services have attempted to adapt to the increased demand, they remain deprioritized and under-resourced, preventing many from getting the help they need.

AI and Big Data analytics are seen as novel tools in the planning of mental health services as well as identifying and monitoring mental health problems in individuals and populations. AI-driven tools can harness readily available, real-time data – such as that generated through social media and electronic health records – to effectively plan and allocate resources for mental health services, identify and prevent misinformation related to public health concerns, develop targeted communications to promote behavior change and predict and intervene early in mental ill health.

A key objective of the meeting is to clarify and guide the use of Big Data and AI in mental health to ensure that countries are implementing these technologies in a safe and effective manner. The use of publicly available data, such as that collected by social media enterprises (so called “Big Data”) raises significant ethical issues related to privacy and discrimination, particularly in the context of predicting and identifying those who may be at risk of developing mental illness. health conditions. Furthermore, the sensitive management of health data cannot be carried out without sufficient digital health literacy among the people using that data.

Participants will have the opportunity to discuss case studies across Member States on the use of data from social media and electronic health records for planning mental health services and how this may shape the future of such services.

European Program of Work in action

Digital health and mental health are 2 of the 4 flagships under the European Program of Work 2020–2025, acting as “accelerators of change”, increasing focus on critical issues that can be transformative to health. This past September, WHO/Europe unveiled an action plan for digital health that was resoundingly endorsed by Member States at the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. The Pan-European Mental Health Coalition, launched by WHO/Europe in 2021, brings together influential stakeholders to mobilize investment in mental health and works with individuals and communities to transform societal attitudes about mental health.

Registration for this event is now closed.

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