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Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Abena Oppong-Asare MP, hosted a roundtable in parliament with Google and Mental Health Innovations on 16 January to discuss the work AI can do to optimise the efficiency of our digital support service Shout. She was joined by fellow parliamentarians, Shout beneficiaries, senior representatives from Mental Health Innovations and Google, as well as our trustee Professor Peter Fonagy OBE, Head of the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, UCL. is supporting us with funding which will go towards leveraging the use of AI to improve our flagship Shout service. As a digital mental health charity, Mental Health Innovations uses digital innovation, data-driven analysis and the experience of clinical experts to improve the mental health of the UK population through the provision of digital tools, support and resources.

Following the discussion we gave Parliamentarians a bespoke report for their region, with an indication of the number of people accessing the Shout support service, and the key mental health challenges faced in these areas.

The roundtable focussed on how digital services can improve the provision of mental health support, and how these technologies can better support vulnerable groups across the UK.

Parliamentarians in attendance, alongside host Abena Oppong-Asare MP (Erith and Thamesmead), included Tracey Crouch MP (Chatham and Aylesford), Liz Twist MP (Blaydon), Jeff Smith MP (Manchester, Withington), and Andy Slaughter MP (Hammersmith).

The discussion covered important topics, and we were delighted to hear from our beneficiaries in the room, as well as Emily, one of Shout’s brilliant volunteers. MPs spoke to us about their experience of supporting constituents through mental health challenges, and learnt about how young people engage more effectively with mental health services via tech based solutions, such as text services, and AI ‘chatbots’. The ease with which young people are able to access tech based mental health services was discussed, and MPs warmly welcomed the work Mental Health Innovations and Google are doing together to extend the provision of services.

We also heard from Google’s Vice President of Product Management, on how Google Search supports vulnerable people, directing them towards the help they need, and from Professor Peter Fonagy on the trends we currently see in mental health data, and how machine learning and AI have helped mental health services better support those in crisis.

CEO of Mental Health Innovations, Victoria Hornby commented:

“We’re delighted to have taken part in this roundtable to raise awareness of the importance of digital in providing mental health support to those in crisis at scale. Over five years, our Shout text messaging service has taken two million conversations with 675,000 children, young people and adults in urgent need of support. Mental Health Innovations, supported by Google and others, is at the forefront of this intersection of societal need and technological development. Our vision is that everyone in the UK has access to digital mental health services and can access appropriate, high-quality support quickly and efficiently through the power of technology. To achieve this, we are embracing the most powerful new developments in data science, machine learning, and generative AI.”

Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Abena Oppong-Asare commented:

“It was a pleasure to join Google and Mental Health Innovations today in parliament to discuss the important subject of mental health. The services provided by the charity are vital for those suffering with their mental health and I’m pleased is providing the financial resources to help develop the use of AI to optimise and improve the efficiency of Mental Health Innovations’ flagship service Shout.”