According to the latest figures, mental illness in the UK is no more prevalent than it was twenty years ago, but, thankfully, the stigma around it has reduced.



Mental health is a huge issue in the UK with one in four adults affected. Whilst seeking help for mental health is becoming less taboo, there is still a lot to be done to ensure people get the help they need.

NHS cuts leads to lack of resources, which means patients seeking help wait longer to see a doctor after their first appointment.

This might explain why so many are turning to alternative ways to access treatment. Cue the rise of the chatbot therapist.

This is a relatively new, but incredibly exciting, area of mental health. Think of it as having a virtual therapist on your smartphone, 24/7.

And whilst taboos around mental health may have dissipated, some still feel uncomfortable about discussing their depression with another human. With a chatbot therapist you are engaging with tech, so there is no fear of being judged.

One company which recently launched a chatbot therapist is Flow. What is different about the service is that engages users with instant chat conversations without the fear of being judged. It offers self-help techniques, mood tracking, curated videos, meditation and mental exercises.

And, best of all, it is available to download free on iOS  with the Android version to be unveiled later in October.

It is early days but, so far, the app has been downloaded more than 5,000 times. And we can see why. Sleep, exercise, nutrition and meditation are incredibly important when it comes to treating depression. Flow helps users to learn why these are the main pillars in recovering from depression - and gathers mood data to offer a personalised response modelled on behavioural therapy. It is like having a therapist on your smartphone 24/7.

Flow’s chatbot therapist is based on the latest psychology and neuroscience research, and was developed by clinical psychologists and machine learning experts. 

User comment:

"I feel like I have a buddy who’s just chatting with me, no judgement, and forcing me to pace myself." 

Flow is one to watch. Earlier this year the company launched a brain stimulation headset treatment for depression, the first and only medically approved at-home treatment of its kind in the UK and EU. To maximise the chance of recovery, the chatbot therapist can be used in conjunction with the brain stimulation headset. Randomised controlled trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Journal of Psychiatry show that brain stimulation, of the type used in the Flow headset, had a similar impact to antidepressants but with fewer and less-severe side effects. The Flow headset retails at £399 and can be purchased here.

And Flow is already starting talks with the NHS about its brain stimulation headset treatment for depression so this technology could one day be available on prescription.

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