A project is underway in Cambridge to develop a new system that aims to speed up mental health diagnoses in young people 

Technology is revolutionising the way we live our day-to-day lives and although the prospect of what it might be capable of can feel daunting for many of us, the latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI) can be life-changing. 

A recent BBC report has revealed plans for a new AI system which has been designed to help in the early identification and therefore speed of diagnosis of mental health conditions among young people. 

Dr Anna Moore, a consultant psychiatrist, expert in clinical informatics at the University of Cambridge and leader of the project notes that this project could be revolutionary. “Diagnosing it earlier means it can be more easily treated,” Dr Moore said. 

The NHS estimates that 20% of people under the age of 24 are likely to need a degree of mental health support, so the latest research is thoroughly welcome. 

How will it work? 

Dr Moore notes that there are a variety of factors which can influence our mental health. These include:

  • genetics
  • early childhood experiences 
  • our environment

The software will gather anonymised childhood information about us from health, education and social service providers, which will then be used to identify trends that might allude to a child developing a mental health condition. This can then be highlighted to a clinician, providing early intervention without the child having to ask for support or face long waiting lists.

Alongside Microsoft, Dr Moore will develop the technology to eventually be used in the NHS and the upcoming Cambridge Children’s Hospital. "Early intervention for young people struggling with their mental health can be lifesaving,” said Jeremy Bernhaut, the head of policy and influencing at Rethink Mental Illness.

What other support is available for children and young people? 

  • Student welfare. Many schools and colleges have a student welfare programme in place. Children may feel comfortable talking to a teacher they can trust, a student nurse or SENCO (special education needs co-ordinator).
  • Private counselling. For some people, private counselling may be an option, particularly if you’re facing longer waiting lists on the NHS. Many therapists offer student or children’s concession prices. Learn more about counselling for children and young people on Counselling Directory.  
  • Young Minds offers information, advice and support for young people, carers and parents. 
  • Place2Be is a children and young people’s mental health charity that provides support, counselling and training in UK schools. 
  • Useful resources. At Counselling Directory, we have a host of articles written by professionals. You can filter by ‘child counselling’ or ‘young people’s counselling’ to learn more or explore ways to support your kids on Happiful.