Chatbots to Support Mental Wellbeing of People Living in Rural Areas: Can User Groups Contribute to Co-design?

Courtney Potts, Edel Ennis, RR Bond, Maurice Mulvenna, Mike McTear, Kyle Boyd, Thomas Broderick, Martin Malcolm, Lauri Kuosmanen, Heidi Nieminen, Anna-Kaisa Vartiainen, Catrine Kostenius, Brian Cahill, Alex Vakaloudis, Gavin McConvey, Siobhan O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
228 Downloads (Pure)


Digital technologies such as chatbots can be used in the field of mental health. In particular, chatbots can be used to support citizens living in sparsely populated areas who face problems such as poor access to mental health services, lack of 24/7 support, barriers to engagement, lack of age appropriate support and reductions in health budgets. The aim of this study was to establish if user groups can design content for a chatbot to support the mental wellbeing of individuals in rural areas. University students and staff, mental health professionals and mental health service users (N=78 total) were recruited to workshops across Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, Finland and Sweden. The findings revealed that participants wanted a positive chatbot that was able to listen, support, inform and build a rapport with users. Gamification could be used within the chatbot to increase user engagement and retention. Content within the chatbot could include validated mental health scales and appropriate response triggers, such as signposting to external resources should the user disclose potentially harmful information or suicidal intent. Overall, the workshop participants identified user needs which can be transformed into chatbot requirements. Responsible design of mental healthcare chatbots should consider what users want or need, but also what chatbot features artificial intelligence can competently facilitate and which features mental health professionals would endorse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652–665
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Technology in Behavioral Science
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished online - 20 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021.


  • mental health
  • co-creation
  • conversational agents
  • conversation design
  • living labs


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