Using AI to screen for mental health.

Plus: Recipes to warm up during the colder months.

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"Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking." — William Butler Yeats

Thursday.  No one has even bought their turkey yet, and Starbucks is already adding peppermint drinks to their menu. Google searches for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” are also starting to trend upward. Is it just me, or does the holiday season start earlier every year? Why the rush? I haven’t even gotten rid of my pumpkins yet. Speaking of things happening very quickly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing how we do everything. The latest thing AI is helping us tackle? Mental health. Let’s dive in.

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A Thermometer For Mental Health 

The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic were tough on everyone, especially for those on the front lines: healthcare workers. Hospitals were like war zones, ICU units were overwhelmed, and the folks working there hardly got a wink of sleep. This took a toll on their mental health, causing mood swings and stress levels that went through the roof.

Some intelligent people at New York University Grossman School of Medicine decided to dig deeper into this issue. They used artificial intelligence (AI) to study what was happening with healthcare workers during therapy sessions. Their research, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research AI, found some words that popped up a lot when healthcare workers were talking to therapists: 

“Hospital ICUs,” “lack of sleep,” and “mood swings.”

These keywords helped the AI figure out who was really struggling. Experts believe this research can serve as a kind of “thermometer” for measuring how anxious or depressed someone is. That’s a big deal because it can help catch burnout before it gets too bad.

Here’s how they did it: They used a special type of AI called natural language processing (NLP) to scan through what people said during their therapy sessions with Talkspace, a company that offers virtual mental health services. They looked at sessions from 820 healthcare workers and compared them to sessions from 820 folks who didn’t work in healthcare, all from March to July 2020.

What they found was pretty interesting. Healthcare workers who talked about the hospital, not sleeping, or feeling moody were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Nonmedical workers, even if they were stressed about work, didn’t seem to have the same intense mental health issues.

Now, you might be thinking, “Of course, healthcare workers were stressed during the pandemic!” But this study showed it in a clear, scientific way. The healthcare workers faced things that others didn’t, affecting them differently.

Experts now want to ensure this AI tech can help doctors and nurses sooner rather than later. This AI could be like a silent helper that flags when someone might be burning out without them even knowing it. This way, we can get in front of helping our medical professionals cope with the stress of their jobs before things get too bad. 

But here’s the thing: they’ve got to make sure this AI is fair and works well for everyone, no matter what language they speak or where they’re from. Experts are still working on making the AI understand different accents so that it can be helpful to people from all backgrounds.

The key takeaway? The hope is that this AI can spot mental health problems early on so that healthcare workers can get the support they need before it’s too late. After all, they’re the essential heroes who look after us when we’re sick. It’s only right that we take care of them too.

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Tonic Shots

1. Cabbage? Yum!

I know cabbage might not sound like the most delicious thing, but these cabbage rolls are so dang good and worth a try. Enjoy!

2. Make This Now, Or Save It For After Thanksgiving

It might be too early for Christmas music but it is not too early for turkey soup. Enjoy.

3. French Onion Soup? C’mon!

Easily my favorite soup for this cool fall weather. Enjoy.

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