The theme for Mental Health Awareness 2022 is tackling loneliness and the impact it can have on our mental health and wellbeing. One of the projects that Action Mental Health is involved with is ChatPal, a mental health chatbot. The project is being led by Ulster University and Courtney Potts, a Research Associate at the University explains a bit more about the project and how it aims to tackle loneliness and isolation for people living in rural areas:
The ChatPal project includes the development and trailing of a multilingual mental health app – the ChatPal chatbot. Ulster University and Action Mental Health are involved in the project, along with other European partners in the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Finland, and Sweden. The ChatPal chatbot promotes positive mental wellbeing of individuals and is targeted at those living in sparsely populated areas.
At the beginning of the project, workshops were held with health professionals, mental health service users and university staff/ students. The purpose of these workshops was to find out what people want and need from a mental health chatbot, and what professionals would support. The aim was to work with these groups to co-design and co-produce the chatbot. During the workshops, the topic of loneliness was discussed given this can affect people living in rural areas. One participant said:
“As an older person experiencing social isolation, I want a friendly chatbot to talk to about my interests so I can feel less lonely & I can feel some degree of companionship in my home”
Users can converse with ChatPal to learn about the causes of loneliness, and the chatbot can provide tips to help people manage these feelings. In ChatPal you can also find relevant mental health information, exercises, simple monitoring and self-care tools, and where to go to access additional mental health support.
The goal for ChatPal is not to replace traditional services, but instead to make them better, more inclusive, streamlined, scalable, and sustainable. The ChatPal chatbot can be used as part of a blended service offering, that can add to in-person sessions as opposed to replacing them. It can also be used as a general health promotion tool, allowing the general population to look after their own mental wellbeing.
Read more about the project: https://chatpal.interreg-npa.eu
Android devices: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.chatpalmobile
This funding source for this project is the Interreg VB Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme under the grant for Conversational Interfaces Supporting Mental Health and Wellbeing of People in Sparsely Populated Areas (ChatPal) project number 345.