Providing AI-powered mental health support services to students in Kenya

Crowdsourcing an AI solution

“The team at BNBR and Mtoto News had collected a text-based dataset with certain key phrases that described states of mental healthsays Nicholas Loki, the CTO & co-founder of Qhala. “They wanted to get the best natural language processing (NLP) AI model to help categorise if a potential user was suicidal, depressed, addicted to drugs, or suffered from alcoholism.”

“The idea of the chatbot was never to create a virtual therapist,” says Loki. “The idea was to provide actionable support to these users, by redirecting them to counselors in their schools who could actually help them overcome whatever the mental health challenge was.”

Highlights, challenges, and better days

“One challenge, aside from the privacy concerns, was actually figuring out if the solution we were building was the right solution,” he says.

“In a nutshell, we were trying to model the conversation chat flow for the chatbot. Also, in the course of this research and survey, it was interesting to find out that most people were open to the idea of interacting with a chatbot to profile them for mental health support services.”

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