Personalized Text Messaging

With support from Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program, CBITs is working to develop a digital mental health intervention that can help young adults learn to manage their mental health concerns. Even though mental health concerns like depression and anxiety are extremely common among young adults ages 18-25, most young adults are interested in managing these concerns on their own, without formal treatments like medication or psychotherapy. Many are open to using digital tools to help them with their mental health. However, because young people have little contact with the mental health system and can’t easily pay for digital health tools, there are few digital mental health solutions for this population.

Through our user-centered design process, we are working directly with young people with mental health concerns to understand the challenges they are facing, and how technology can help. Our intervention will be based around text messaging, the most frequently used application on the phone. Our approach will integrate a large bank of interactions and content that can be personalized, through machine learning, to meet the diverse needs of young people. Over time, the intervention will learn which psychological intervention strategies and styles of interaction are most acceptable and engaging for each user, helping to address behaviors, thinking patterns, and social challenges.

We are partnering on this project with computer scientists at the University of Toronto, and Mental Health America, our nation’s largest mental health advocacy organization. In 2015, Mental Health America placed mental health screening tools on their website, which are now used by more than 1,000,000 visitors annually. The intervention will be developed and evaluated with young adults who visit the Mental Health America screening website.