Language Analysis for Mental Health
Over the last years, the practice of delivering mental health services has changed dramatically. Information on mental health problems is widely available online and indexed for search, mobile devices are being used in large numbers worldwide, psychological assessment is being automated step-by-step and consultation is increasingly conducted via the Internet.
Most people still have one mobile phone only, some have several devices for professional and private purposes. Mobile phones record and transmit speech, text and movement data. Mobile devices are essential for social networking, the organisation of social tribes and consequently, in the participation of individuals in physical or online groups. For the first time ever, objective data about the behaviour of a significant portion of the worldwide population is available.
Most psychologists and psychiatrists would agree that this data is valuable for assessment purposes. Clearly, there are significant ethical and privacy concerns that must be addressed as methods for the computational assessment and treatment of mental health problems are being developed. Nevertheless, the information on movement and communication patterns, constantly recorded by mobile phones, has significant value beyond the very subjective self-report of concerned individuals and family members.
Speech and language are particularly interesting from the viewpoint of psychological assessment. For instance, depression changes the characteristics of voice in individuals and these changes can be detected by a special form of speech analysis. Some psychological problems result in changes in the use of language, e.g. the use of certain words and the avoidance of others, the inappropriate introduction of new words to a language and a reduction of the overall vocabulary (e.g. schizophrenia). Computational screening methods that utilise speech and language can detect subtle changes and alert clinicians as well as individuals and caregivers.
Diederich, J. Preface. In: Lech, M., Song, I., Yellowlees, P., Diederich, J. (Eds.), Mental Health Informatics. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer Verlag, 2014. ISBN: 978-3-64238549-0.