Tagchatbot

Reading of the Week: Suicide and Schizophrenia – Across Life Span; Also, Transgender-Inclusive Care (QT), and the NYT on Chatbots

From the Editor

This week, we have three selections.

In the first, we consider suicide and schizophrenia. In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Dr. Mark Olfson (of Columbia University) and his co-authors do a cohort study across life-span, tapping a massive database. They find: “the risk of suicide was higher compared with the general US population and was highest among those aged 18 to 34 years and lowest among those 65 years and older.” The authors see clear clinical implications: “These findings suggest that suicide prevention efforts for individuals with schizophrenia should include a focus on younger adults with suicidal symptoms and substance use disorders.”

In the second selection, we consider transgender-inclusive care, looking at a new Quick Takes podcast. Drs. June Lam and Alex Abramovich (both of the University of Toronto) comment on caring for members of this population. “Trans individuals are medically underserved and experience, poor mental health outcomes, high rates of disease burden – compared to cisgender individuals.”

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Finally, in our third selection from The New York Times, reporter Karen Brown writes about chatbots for psychotherapy, focusing on Woebot. The writer quotes psychologist Alison Darcy about the potential of these conversational agents: “If we can deliver some of the things that the human can deliver, then we actually can create something that’s truly scalable, that has the capability to reduce the incidence of suffering in the population.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Trump on Trump & the Goldwater Rule; Also, Chatbots Reviewed (CJP)

From the Editor

Should psychiatrists comment on the possible mental health problems of President Donald Trump? His niece thinks so.

In our first selection, we consider an essay by Mary L. Trump. In this Washington Post essay, the psychologist discusses the Goldwater Rule, which prevents members of the American Psychiatric Association from commenting on political figures. Trump feels that psychiatrists should speak up. “Adopting a notionally neutral stance in this case doesn’t just create a void where professional expertise should be – it serves to normalize dysfunctional behavior.” We consider the essay and the questions it raises.

barrygoldwater-58fab94e5f9b581d596956b2Goldwater of the Goldwater Rule

In the other selection, we pick another current topic, but this time we draw from a journal, not a newspaper, considering a new paper from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Aditya Nrusimha Vaidyam (of Harvard University) and his co-authors do a review of chatbots for mental health; that is, “digital tools capable of holding natural language conversations and mimicking human-like behavior in task-oriented dialogue with people” (think Siri or Alexa, but for mental disorders). “This review revealed few, but generally positive, outcomes regarding conversational agents’ diagnostic quality, therapeutic efficacy, or acceptability.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: “Talking to Machines About Personal Mental Health Problems.” JAMA on Therapy & AI

From the Editor

Will people seek therapy with computers one day, getting care from programs built with Artificial Intelligence?

The authors of a new JAMA paper consider this in a short, clever piece, titled “Talking to Machines About Personal Mental Health Problems.”

In this two-part Reading of the Week series, we look at two papers, both published in JAMA. These Viewpoint pieces make interesting, provocative arguments.

This week, we look at conversational agents.

Next week, we ask: is CBT really the gold standard for psychotherapy?

Stanford University’s Adam S. Miner and his co-authors consider conversational agents – that is software programs that “use conversational artificial intelligence to interact with users through voice or text.” Could there be therapeutic value in such a program? What are the ethical challenges?

Robot and human hands almost touching - 3D render. A modern take on the famous Michelangelo painting in the Sistine Chapel; titled, "The Creation of Adam".

In this Reading, we review the paper, and consider the potential of conversational agents, with an eye on what’s currently available.

DG

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