Free online chatbot service to help people cope with COVID-19 depression

By Park Sae-jin Posted : September 30, 2021, 14:58 Updated : September 30, 2021, 16:24

[Gettyimages Bank]

SEOUL -- South Korea will demonstrate a free online chatbot service that will help people cope with COVID Blue depression symptoms caused by a prolonged coronavirus pandemic. Anyone can access the online mental health portal using a smartphone or a computer. A chatbot is artificial intelligence-based software that can engage in natural language conversation with users.

COVID Blue is a new kind of depression that was found after the pandemic hit the global community in early 2020. Medical specialists found that depression and anxiety symptoms were mainly caused by self-isolation and social distancing. According to South Korea's health ministry, some one million people visited psychiatrists in 2020, while about 800,000 people sought medical help for depression a year ago.

The Ministry of Science and ICT joined hands with the National Research Foundation to develop and upgrade "My Mental Pocket," an online mental health application. The demonstration will begin on October 1.

"This non-face-to-face service will be especially useful for students, old people, soldiers, and low-income families who cannot easily access mental health services," Lee Chang-yun, a science ministry director in charge of basic core technology research policy, said in a statement on September 30.

Through the mental health app service, users can communicate with a chatbot and play online games designed to ease the level of depression. Online games will encourage users to engage in physical activities while the chatbot will talk to users based on data filtered and processed by some 200 expert counselors.
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