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Our Opinion: Help for mental health

This editorial originally appeared in the Jefferson City News Tribune. Read the full story online: News Tribune Website

.Jul. 26 2021

Unfortunately, mental health still is somewhat of a taboo issue, despite the fact one in five adults in America experiences a mental illness.

Anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are some of the common issues many of us face, often privately with feelings of shame.

So we welcome new solutions that effectively tackle the problem. A new partnership to provide easy and quick access to mental health appears to be promising.

Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri has partnered with Catholic Charities USA and technology provider X2AI to provide mental health support through a chatbot named Hope.

Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri is the social services outreach arm of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring Hope to everyone who lives in the 38 counties of the Diocese of Jefferson City,” said CCCNMO Executive Director Dan Lester in a recent News Tribune story. “Access to mental health can be a challenge, especially in rural communities, and we believe that Hope is one tool that can really make a difference for our neighbors in need who may be struggling.”

The chatbot was created by clinical psychologists. It connects clients through artificial intelligence-driven text conversations, available in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

According to X2AI, research studies found using the chatbot led to significantly reduced symptoms by 28 percent for depression and 18 percent for anxiety.

We’re not naive enough to believe a chatbot with artificial intelligence can replace mental health professionals. So thankfully, the new program can connect users with a licensed therapist or Catholic Charities.

Also, if users suggest they are considering suicide or are at immediate risk of domestic violence, they will receive an immediate call from a crisis counselor.

To access the free, confidential Hope service, users can text “Hi” to 1-202-949-7249 or visit facebook.com/HopeCCUSA and use the start code “CCCNMO.”

We’re encouraged by the new program, and we hope it leads to help for people who might not otherwise seek it.

News Tribune