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AI to the rescue with new mental health app

In the aftermath of the pandemic, mental health has significantly deteriorated, with research indicating that adults may require up to three decades to effectively navigate life’s complexities. Recognising this issue, the founder of WellStream, a mental wellbeing app, is determined to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in order to discover a solution.

It is not 2023 if there is no talk about AI. While there are fears about the technology replacing people’s jobs, some are seeing it as a solution.

Ben Blain founded Wellstream based on a problem he personally witnessed.  In his twenties, Blain knew he was mentally ill but could not pinpoint what was wrong especially at a time in his life when he had so much going on. It wasn’t just him that felt it, it was his friends too.

Looking into this phenomenon a bit further he stumbled upon research that stated it takes 15 years of being an adult to figure stuff out.

Fifteen years of unhappiness and misery, which later doubled following the pandemic to 30 years. This means that for an 18-year-old, it could take them until their late 40’s to have everything figured out.

“That’s so much extra unhappiness and misery and all the other bad stuff which goes along with that and there are no tools for people to learn how to be more self-aware properly,” he says.

“So I was like, ‘Cool, maybe we can come up with a tool which will take that 15 years and turn it into one year instead’.”

Wellstream was born as a mobile app that allowed people to map out the impact of their mental wellbeing across the different things in their life.

The app has helped Blain realise that playing games has decreased his mental wellbeing by 10 percent while weightlifting has boosted his mental wellbeing by 10 percent.

Ben Blain.

Unlike the large catalogue of mental wellbeing apps and services, Wellstream is all about creating a visual board of one person’s individual life and how that is affecting their mental wellbeing.

Read more: Why technology needs to play a bigger role in Kiwis’ mental health journeys

“When we started our first sort of 12 month trial, all of the people were exactly the same as the New Zealand population average in terms of their happiness and their mental wellbeing, and then, a year later, they were 55 percent higher than the New Zealand population, so 55 percent happier and all that had happened is that they had just worked on specific problem kind of areas of their life during that 12 months,” explains Blain.

So how does AI fit into the mix in supporting those and their mental wellbeing?

Blain’s future strategy with AI and Wellstream is by using the technology to measure services that could help them where it is needed the most.

He explains it that if an individual who is using the app is feeling anxious, AI can determine from the information they know about the person and match them to a service that will most likely help them.

It is very common for an individual to go through multiple therapists before landing on the right one, contributing to that number of 30 years. But with AI and Wellstream, that trial and error process can be made easier.

“You can think of it as what we are building is a kind of best friend that’s always looking for the best growth and wellbeing that you have access to,” says Blain.

The of using AI with Wellstream was pencilled in as part of the businesses 2030 roadmap, but with how fast the technology has developed, Blain sees the app being quickly optimised with AI before this initial goal.

Through Wellstream, Blain says they don’t want to compete with the 20,000 and more apps that support mental health, but rather support the community to be as effective as it can be.

“That’s not what the end game is, is that we want to help people to actually consciously design the lives that they’re in,” he says.

Wellstream is set to launch in July and is now in its first funding round for capital raise to achieve the goal of integrating AI into the app.

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles. To get in touch with her, email [email protected]

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