AI and Mental Health Apps: Promises, Pitfalls, and Privacy Concerns

Every single second, there are thousands of people out there sharing personal things about themselves with their phones or computers—things they probably wouldn’t want just anyone to know.

This happens when folks search online for medical info, usually trying to find answers to questions about a health issue or something they’re worried about. According to Google, in 2022, lots of users were looking up details about diets, supplements, exercise, stress, depression, and various other health concerns. Depending on their browser settings, these details might still be hanging around in their Google profiles.

But it’s not just internet searches; people are also sharing private health info on health and wellness apps, including mental health and counseling programs. These apps gather data to offer services, and in many cases, they make money by showing targeted ads or selling anonymous info to data brokers.

Understanding why data privacy is important

According to PIA, Over 20% of Americans deal with mental health conditions, but only 60% can access the necessary treatments and care. To bridge this gap, a bunch of mental health apps have popped up, providing services like mood tracking and stress management. 

These apps have become super popular, reaching a whopping $5.2 billion market value in 2022. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows—many of these apps raise serious privacy concerns underneath their shiny surface.

Even though more Americans are becoming open about discussing their mental health, many still prefer to keep it private. This desire for privacy isn’t just because of the remaining stigma around mental health issues. It’s also because there’s a real risk of harm if personal information is shared for the wrong reasons.

For example, let’s say you share with a mental health app that you’re in therapy three times a week for obsessive-compulsive disorder or that you’re dealing with an eating disorder.

Now, think about that information ending up in the anonymous profile that advertisers use to target you—do you really want ads related to these personal matters showing up on your browser, especially when you’re at work or in your email?

You don’t have to stretch your imagination too far because, in reality, data brokers are collecting and selling mental health data, as highlighted in a recent report from Duke University.

Why use AI for mental health care?

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Opting for a digital, AI-based mental health solution has its perks compared to traditional therapy. A key advantage of artificial intelligence is its ability to process massive amounts of information. 

This means you get a personalized experience because the tech can analyze your data against a vast array (from thousands to even billions) of data points. These data points could come from scientific papers, studies, or non-identifiable and private personal data.

The idea of tracking yourself against others, known as the quantified self, isn’t new. Nowadays, people are keen to monitor both their physical and emotional well-being, and AI is stepping in to assist with both aspects. The recent surge in interest can be attributed to factors like limited time, the cost of care, or difficulties accessing traditional mental healthcare, especially during the pandemic.

The Bright Future of Mental Health AI Apps

As technology becomes a bigger part of mental health care, the future for AI apps in this field looks really promising. Right now, lots of people are using these apps to do all sorts of helpful things—keeping tabs on their mood, handling stress, practicing meditation, and even talking with mental health experts. These apps are set to keep doing well for a few reasons:

  • Easy Access:
      • What it does: Makes it easy for people to get mental health help.
      • How it helps: You can quickly access these services whenever you need them.
  • Precise Assessment:
      • What it does: Gives more accurate evaluations.
      • How it helps: It provides a better understanding of your mental health.
  • Integration Boost:
      • What it does: Improves how mental health services work together.
      • How it helps: Everything connects more smoothly for better overall care.
  • Personal Assistants:
      • What it does: Offers personalized help.
      • How it helps: You get support tailored just for you.
  • Privacy Priority:
    • What it does: Keeps your medical info private.
    • How it helps: Your personal stuff stays confidential and secure.

AI Apps Making Mental Health Easier

These apps use smart technology like machine learning and natural language processing to understand users better and provide personalized help. This not only helps break the stigma around mental health but also makes good care more accessible. Let’s explore a couple of promising ones:


  • What it does: Keeps an eye on your emotional well-being by checking your facial expressions from time to time.
  • How it helps: It breaks down the impact of different apps and websites on your mental health, helping you choose wisely. You become more aware of your feelings and can actively seek out positive vibes, promoting a healthier mental state.


  • What it does: An AI-driven mental health app offering quick support.
  • How it helps: Uses clinically validated AI to give you a first level of care. If you need more, there’s human coaching available. It tracks your mood, emphasizes optimism, and helps reshape thinking in a friendly way using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This fresh approach can make a big difference for those dealing with mental health challenges.


  • What it does: It’s an AI-powered Chrome extension.
  • How it helps: Watch what you do online and deliver mental health exercises when you need them. So, as you go about your online activities, Breathhh jumps in with stress-relieving tips. It’s like having a mental health buddy seamlessly integrated into your daily routine.

Balancing AI Apps in Mental Health

While AI-based apps can be helpful, relying solely on them isn’t the best approach. These apps can’t replace real-life therapists or formal treatment just yet. However, they make great companions to your existing treatment plan and can offer convenient support, like having an AI friend.

Even though these chatbots perform well, they’re not flawless. It’s impressive to see how advanced AI has become, but it’s essential to acknowledge its limitations. Some suggestions might seem too basic, but there are instances where these apps genuinely provide fresh perspectives to enhance your mental well-being.


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