The number of positive cases for COVID-19 is escalating up daily. This has accelerated the global usage for Chatbot technology. Experts predict that this trend is likely to grow post pandemic too. Most of these chatbot are proving effective by disseminating accurate information about the disease to the masses, answer queries, provide online consultation, and dispel myths. But there are few which are helpful to address the rising mental health cases amongst the public. The lockdown and social distancing imposed by the government are weighing on the mental peace of common man. Plagued by thoughts about running out of essential commodities, office shutdowns, paranoid about being laid off or losing sources of income, the uncertainty of things going back to normal, information overload separation from quarantined friends and family are wreaking havoc on them. All these worries along with self-isolation can trigger feelings of loneliness and even depression. Hence are some chatbots that are equipped to help the distressed. Let us have a look at some of the cyber saviors from India:
Generally, chatbots provide automated responses for every question. Furthermore if one needs to pay to speak to certified therapists, this is where PinkyMind shines. The app has an elaborate sign-in process and gives you the freedom to choose the kind of help you want. It does not give you random answers to your queries. Nor any instances of generic and vague questions asked. One can opt for therapists, consultation for free. If required one can choose for the paid services and schedule multiple appointments with the therapist of their choice along with a video call option.
This five-year-old mental wellness firm saw an upsurge of 60% new users over the last two weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak, with different cases of anxiety and panic-induced calls. “The uncertainty of not knowing what’s next and how it’ll affect our lives is causing the maximum damage,” says Puneet Manuja, co-founder, YourDost. This app allows people to seek help even on anonymous grounds. It provides suggestions on how to deal with pandemic and utilize the time while confined indoors, and boost self-growth.
This Delhi based startup app was launched in 2019 by Sumit Mittal. It provides the freedom to people to express their emotions and views anonymously on various categories such as politics, current affairs, confession, entertainment, daily drag, relationship, and grievance. Recently it saw a 17% to 20% traffic increase in a month with the emergence of opinions on topics like work from home, dealing with new work life and a change in lifestyle. This provides a unique platform when compared to biased content, peer pressure forced beliefs and merciless trolling rife on social networking sites and apps these days.
According to founder Shipra Dawar, this online consultation app is now handling a minimum of 600 cases as compared to earlier figures of 300-400 cases about mental anxiety. Launched in June 2017 by ePsyClinic has more than 1.5 million unique visitors each month. It provides mental health-oriented assessment tests after signing up. Based on this it pairs you with a therapist with an individual session plan ranging from ₹ 2,880 to ₹ 9,900. Besides that, it has a personalized FEED with real-life stories, healing confessions, and beneficial content.
This AI-based mental and emotional wellness app responds to the emotions a user expresses and uses evidence-based cognitive-behavior techniques (CBT), meditation, breathing, yoga, motivational interviewing and micro-actions to help build mental resilience skills. It has a cute penguin for a chatbot, who pops up from time to time on the mobile screen to inquire about how one is feeling at a particular moment. After the pandemic alert, in the light of booming dependency of people on the mental health apps, Wysa made its AI chat feature and all its tools free. Founder Jo Aggarwal says that the app witnessed a sharp increase in issues regarding health anxiety, feelings of isolation and both financial and social implications of lockdowns.
This doctor consultation and scheduling app faced a spike of 30% due to coronavirus outbreak. Prasad Kompalli, the founder and chief executive of MFine said to a source that the number of searches for online therapy highlights the seriousness of the situation. Along with that, companies like GoAir and Healthcare giants Sunshine Hospitals, Medicover Hospitals, Srikara Hospitals, and AIG Hospital are partnering up with it to assess the situation virtually and provide assistance to the users. These include audio and video sessions with doctors, alleviate the common fears, asserting if a patient requires immediate attention or if they are going to be okay, etc.
As the cloud of uncertainty looms about when we will be free from the lockdown regulations and continue with social distancing, one thing is certain that COVID-19 is taking a toll on us mentally and physically. As the chatbots are gaining prominence, they are proving to be an indispensable tool. They provide information and assistance in one place. They are easy to update and reduce staff burden. And most importantly they are easy to use and built. It will be a matter of time when these domestic apps evolve and come with additional features like linking your account with Netflix, suggest guided meditation and relaxing online games, etc.