Why Computer Science Is Good For Mental Health

Sereal open book with a young lady opserving another young lady climing some stone stairs within the pages of the book through a door in the book. . By McDonald. T |  July 23th 2018
A.I. is not a discipline in its own right; however, it does fall under a subset of psychology called cognitive sciences and computer science.  Although cognitive science does not include therapy, it is still a good idea to have some understanding of mental health and if any parts of the mental health system can be automated.  For your interest, cognitive science includes anthropology, neuroscience, philosophy and linguistics.  Ultimately, computer science can provide advanced technology to improve mental health services: automating tests; supporting people in the home and understanding the way a person solves a problem.

Advanced technology provided by computer science can improve automated testing of mental health. Surveys are a good way of extracting information from people and computers do surveys really well. Furthermore, in computer science there is a subset called data science, which uses scientific methods to extract knowledge from data and a survey can be thought of as a collection of data. In order to collect the data, a survey will need a well thought out form with the correct widgets. In software engineering, a widget is a component of an interface that enables a user to perform a function or access a service. For example, when you sign into your social media account, the text field you put your user name in is a widget, a selection list and even the submit button is a widget. After entering data into a form, what happens next? The answer is it goes to a server with a database. The transfer of data over the Internet, obviously, involves a lot of security, which i will not go into. Instead, think about the collection and sorting of data and more importantly what conclusions can be drawn from the results. Databases are good because you can use them to organise data into useful information. Online surveys can:

  • cut out a all unnecessary chitchat that can occur form face to face surveys,
  • collect a huge amount of data very quickly,
  • produce results from the survey very quickly,
  • eliminate human error when analysing the results; it does the maths for you.
Once the collection of data has finished, a table displaying meaningful information is give back to the user. As a result, time, expenditure and human processing have all been reduced; moreover, if the user wants to see the results they can instantly, see table 1.

DisorderYour Score
Major Depression:Very High
Bipolar Disorder:Slight
Seasonal Affective Disorder:Very High
Postpartum Depression:N/A
Take the Depression Test

Table 1, example results table of a depression survey.  You can take the survey yourself by clicking on take the depression test.

In the above example, no information is stored, but this need not be the case.  In fact collecting information is an important topic.  Now there is a way of collecting huge amounts of data very quickly there comes the problem of sorting the data and organising it, which is where computer science can really help.  Big data is a problem and computer science is the solution.  Psychologists and psychiatrists can collect masses of information about symptoms and test results, which is likely to improve the service they provide, which in turn is all provided by advanced technologies.  

Advanced computer technologies can support people in the home.  For many people with mental health there is the issue of insomnia and irregular sleeping patterns.  Imagine a house that can monitor the occupants sleeping patterns and send information to the doctor if necessary.  In addition, the houses of the future could have the ability to monitor almost everything including the fridge, if the shopping needs ordering, then order the shopping, pay for it and organise its delivery to the occupant!  This would be of particular use to many people with mental health problems.  Again, this requires the collection of data.  All this automation comes from the computer science.

Advanced computer technologies can help humanity understand more about the way a human solves a problem.  It has long been know how to program for an automated councillor.  In fact, if you have a Mac you can find this councillor in Terminal.  Supposing online-automated councillors could collect information on how humans solve different types of problems such as relationship problems or planning problems by examining the tactics employed and then looking at how successful the different tactics were.

To conclude, automating tests, supporting people in the home and understanding the way a person solves a problem are all ways that computer science can help to improve mental health services.  In the not so distant future, computer science will become more and more useful to mental health services.


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