New AI program uncovers mental illnesses among senior citizens

New AI program

Mental health practitioners in Singapore will be able to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose senior citizens with illnesses such as anxiety, stress, and depression all through a video screening. Its purpose is to support early detection of mental health issues.

The way it works sounds deceivingly simple.

The emotional analysis technology captures the patient’s responses and facial expressions, in which these elements will be analyzed by the new AI program. Through presenting heatmaps of the patient’s negative and positive emotions, the counselor will be able to determine the patient’s mental state.

In a collaboration with social services agency Lions Befrienders (LB), the new technology developed by the software solutions provider Opsis Emotion AI will be tested over the next two years.

The testing phase will target more than 4,300 senior citizens based in Singapore, with the help of Temasek Foundation’s generous donation which amounts to $190,000.

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Mental health practitioner Keith Tan at Lions Befrienders explains the use of the new program which analyzes facial responses to support virtual counselling. Credits: Jason Quah.

Deputy chairman of Temasek Foundation Richard Magnus explained that there is an existing stigma around mental health issues for seniors in Singapore, mentioning that “we are culturally shy to share our mental health problems. Our resilient seniors especially keep this condition away from their children so as not to burden them. Facial emotion analysis has tremendous potential to help us detect mental health issues accurately and address them early.”

During August of last year, 30 patients participated in the clinical trials of the new AI program. It was revealed that the newly found program was up to 85 percent accurate in comparison to normal tests conducted by counsellors who treated the patients.

Andrew Ow, CEO and co-founder of Opsis explained that this technology is particularly helpful in addressing mental health issues in its early stages.

“The objective is to assist healthcare professionals deal more effectively with mental health issues in people who are suffering in silence. With this tool, we could help prevent behavioral and psychological deterioration, and improve quality of life,” Ow said.

Lions Befrienders, which treats almost 7,600 seniors, said the new AI program will go hand in hand with the agency’s current mental health screening process. Through tele-counseling, counsellors will be able to better assess patients amid a COVID-19 pandemic.

If the new AI tool achieves success in Singapore, its utilization will go beyond small communities. The unique program might possibly be of benefit to several other social services sector, including people with special needs.