Mental Health in the workplace: Using chatbots for self-assessment

Gillian Cameron, Gavin Megaw, David Cameron, Maurice Mulvenna, RR Bond, Siobhan O'Neill, Cherie Armour, Mike McTear

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Around 15% of people that are currently in work have symptoms of a mental health condition. In partnership with Ulster University, Inspire Workplaces have developed a digital intervention to help tackle this issue, to broaden access to and complement their existing face-to-face counselling services. The Inspire Support Hub is a web platform that contains self-help tools and resources, and an embedded chatbot called iHelpr.

A chatbot is “a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet”. Chatbots are increasingly prevalent in society, and they can be used for many use cases, such as checking the weather, purchasing goods and even talking with a virtual therapist. Woebot, a chatbot therapist, has made headlines recently, and receives two million messages per week. Another chatbot called Tess, developed at the company x2-AI by clinical psychologists, delivers support using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Solution-focused Brief Therapy, and mindfulness. Chatbots can provide instant 24-hour support, and send tailored advice to the user.

iHelpr guides the user through validated self-assessment questionnaires on stress, anxiety, sleep, depression, alcohol and self-esteem. The user then receives a bespoke report with evidence based recommendations, directing them to self-help resources, or alternatively as required, they are stepped up to talk directly to a mental health practitioner.

In a small study of iHelpr, participants stated using the chatbot and related self-help materials would allow them to be proactive about their stress levels, and it would help if they were feeling overwhelmed at work. Participants found the chatbot enjoyable and easy to use, and stated there was a consistent personality throughout the conversation. However, it was found more variability in the responses was needed to enhance the conversation and user experience, and localization should be supported to allow users to interact with the chatbot in multiple languages.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 Oct 2019
EventEuropean Conference on Mental Health - Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Oct 20194 Oct 2019


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Mental Health
Abbreviated titleECMH
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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