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ChatPal promotes mental health

Published: 28 August 2020

The ChatPal project will develop a service where artificial intelligence (AI) is used to promote mental health.The target group in Norrbotten is young people.
– The first version of the app ChatPal is available on the App Store, in English. But it will also come in Swedish and Finnish, says Catrine Kostenius, professor of health sciences.

The project has recently conducted a research conference and a webinar, where interested parties could take part in information about the project and also ask questions. The webinar was physically held in session hall of Region Norrbotten, but due to Covid-19, most people participated via a link.
There are a number of actors involved in the project, including Luleå University of Technology, Region Norrbotten and Norrbotten Municipalities.

Simulates conversations

The service that is being developed is called ChatPal - your positive psychology chatbot. It is based on AI technology and communicates with users by interpreting the meaning of written text and at a later stage in speech to simulate everyday conversations between people.
When the content of the ChatPal app is translated into Swedish and Finnish, it must also be adapted to each country's culture.

– It can be a way to provide help at an early stage in mild mental illness. Users can get tips and support to promote their mental health. It is intended to be a complement to other services in health care, Catrine Kostenius from Luleå University of Technology, says. A survey is currently being conducted among staff who work with children and young people in Norrbotten and among young people who may be using the service, to find out what they think it should contain.

Important to inform

One of the questions from the audience during the webinar was about risks with an app like this.
– It is important that ChatPal can identify signals if someone needs further help and provide information about where the person can get more help, Catrine Kostenius explained.
Christina Wagenius, at the Region Norrbotten, who also participated in the seminar, pointed out that it is important to infom that it is an AI and not a person with whom you communicate.
Speakers at the conference were Harvard professor Jon Torous, Marcus Liwicki, professor of machine learning and Sebastian Gabrielsson, senior lecturer in nursing, both from Luleå University of Technology.