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Avatars Are The Future To Bridging Mental Health Access

Leveraging AI, machine-learning and avatars to make mental health resources accessible and easy to understand.

It’s no secret that mental health is a growing concern in today’s society. With the ever-increasing demands of work and life, it’s no wonder that so many people are struggling to keep up. 

We are experiencing the biggest shortage of mental health practitioners, leaving many of us on long waitlists and providers over-burdened and burnt-out. The mental health pandemic has revealed real gaps in our mental health system and the need for a robust structure and delivery. Thankfully, there are a growing number of tools and resources available to help those struggling with mental health issues. This is where the new Canadian based start-up Mind-Easy comes in, leveraging AI, machine-learning and avatars to make mental health resources accessible and easy to understand.

What do Avatar based resources look like?

Unlike traditional forms of tele-therapy that involves texting a counselor and talking to a chatbot, Mind-Easy uses human-like avatars to walk users through their mental health struggles and guide them through preventative therapeutic interventions. The platform, which launched in early 2022, already has over 15000 end users across 15 different countries. The platform includes resources and psycho-education in over 20 different languages, all delivered through their unique avatars.

“We had a lot of fun testing different avatars out with our users. Our user-testing showed an inclination towards women-like avatars (predictably!), but also gave us interesting insight into the sounds, voices and accents preferred by our users.” says Akanksha Shelat, co-founder and CTO of Mind-Easy. 

This type of intervention and therapy is part of their core mission to make mental health inclusive of representations for all communities of people. “It’s amazing to see the engagement increase and develop when users interact with avatars that look and feel like them. Our avatars are inclusive of all verticals of identity, not just genders and ethnicities, but also occupational identities like front-line workers.” continued Shelat.

What does the research say about Avatar based interventions?

Recent studies done on avatar based mental health interventions has shown positive significance in reducing communication barriers faced by clients as well as promoting treatment-seeking due to its anonymous nature.
Furthermore, avatar customization and use in digital environments has also shown to increase treatment effectiveness in users with low relatedness, even when compared to face-to-face formats. For example, users with impairment with disabilities experienced improved confidence with avatars compared to face-to-face. 

The future of tech in Mental Health

Mind-Easy is continuously leveraging and engaging with emerging technologies to make cultural inclusivity and accessibility the minimum standard of mental health.

“We want to take our asynchronous resources to a level where people don’t have to wait 3-4 months for an appointment to get the help they need. We want to bring machine reliable and structured forms of therapy to every single person that needs them, not just when they need it but also before they reach a point of crisis”, explained Shelat.

Mind-Easy is currently in collaboration with Tripp to host a Mental Health event on their platform AltSpace, as well as building the first mental health clinic in the metaverse through the Decentraland platform. You can read all about their growth in the metaverse here.

As Avatar based platforms and interventions grow in popularity, it will be interesting to see how they develop. Will we see more traditional formats like talk-therapy being replaced by Avatar based interventions? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure – the future of mental health is looking a lot more tech-savvy and personalized than ever before!

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