...Dr. Elizabeth A. Carpenter-Song, a medical anthropologist who studies mental health, said in an email that it's completely understandable why people are turning to a technology like ChatGPT. Her research has found that people are especially interested in the constant availability of digital mental health tools, which they feel is akin to having a therapist in their pocket.

"Technology, including things like ChatGPT, appears to offer a low-barrier way to access answers and potentially support for mental health." wrote Carpenter-Song, a research associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at Dartmouth College. "But we must remain cautious about any approach to complex issues that seems to be a 'silver bullet.'"

Carpenter-Song noted that research suggests digital mental health tools are best used as part of a "spectrum of care."

Those seeking more digital support, in a conversational context similar to ChatGPT, might consider chatbots designed specifically for mental health, like Woebot and Wysa, which offer AI-guided therapy for a fee.

Digital peer support services also are available to people looking for encouragement online, connecting them with listeners who are ideally prepared to offer that sensitively and without judgment. Some, like Wisdo and Circles, require a fee, while others, like TalkLife and Koko, are free. (People can also access Wisdo free through a participating employer or insurer.) However, these apps and platforms range widely and also aren't meant to treat mental health conditions.

In general, Carpenter-Song believes that digital tools should be coupled with other forms of support, like mental healthcare, housing, and employment, "to ensure that people have opportunities for meaningful recovery."

"We need to understand more about how these tools can be useful, under what circumstances, for whom, and to remain vigilant in surfacing their limitations and potential harms," wrote Carpenter-Song.


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