Would you recommend getting mental health help from AI psychiatrists?


I came across an article saying people are getting mental health help they need from AI chatbots. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

I came across an article saying people are getting mental health help they need from AI chatbots. Is it something you'd recommend?

One of the many medical maxims I hold to be true states “Do not be the first to accept a new type of treatment, but also do not be the last to try the treatment.”

Questioned by the US Congress recently, the founder of ChatGPT was of the view that Artificial Intelligence (AI) in general should be the subject of regulation by governments.

Earlier, the father of AI at Google had resigned from his job to be able to warn stakeholders of the potential dangers of the unregulated use of AI.

In both cases, it is those with the greatest knowledge of the potential dangers of unregulated use that are sounding the warnings.

I would therefore urge you not to be the first and not to be the last to use the tools that I have no doubt will be available in the near future.

The other equally sound opinion in medicine is for you to wait until the regulating body on new medical treatments has had their say on the efficacy, and safety of the new proposed intervention.

Such bodies collate and examine research data on the medical conditions the new intervention is supposed to treat.

Not only does the treatment have to be effective, but it must also be safe in the short and long term. Do not use untested remedies.

To the great shame of the Kennedy family, for example, Rosemary who had seizures had, in 1941 at the age of 23, brain surgery to cut off some parts of the brain as treatment.

She lived the rest of her life in an incapacitated state and unable to speak intelligibly. This act is evidence of a lack of proper judgment in medical practice.

Controversial as it is currently, homosexuality was a curable disease when I was in medical school and there were treatment protocols on how to treat this aberrant “behaviour”.

In 1973, there was a change in the classification of diseases and homosexuality ceased to be a medical condition and consequently no treatment protocol was in place.

Without comment on gay rights, the point is made that medical opinion changes over time and is largely guided by vigorous scientific enquiry.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is now accepted as a treatment option for mild and moderate depression and in some cases has been shown to be as effective as medication.

To your point, it has been shown to be effective when administered online via well-tested apps.

Does it work for all people all the time? No. Can it work without proper evaluation by a mental health expert? Again, the answer is no. Might it work better in the future with the use of AI? Most certainly yes.

During the recent Covid-19 pandemic, we at the Chiromo Hospital Group were able to demonstrate that telepsychiatry is a viable and acceptable method of treatment in mental health.

Has it replaced the doctors? No. Has it increased available tools for treatment? Most certainly.

I am sure you can already see where this argument is leading us to. The practice of mental health is always a work in progress and in your case, it might be a little soon for you to try untested treatments.

Did you know that Kenya has as many as 170 psychiatrists, that 51 of them work for 26 different counties, while Mathari Hospital is now an excellent teaching and referral hospital?

Before you put yourself in harm's way, check out what is on offer in your locality.

Send your mental health concerns to [email protected]

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