Startup Mental Health Crisis

According to a medical study by the University of California, nearly 50 percent of business founders have self-reported mental health conditions. The same study also revealed that founders were more likely than the general population to report substance abuse and bipolar disorders.

What’s happening to our entrepreneurs?

Nine out of ten startups fail. Entrepreneurs experience enormous pressure — not only from investors, but also from their staff, customers, and families. They carry the weight of the entire business on their shoulders. The startup culture has a hard time accepting and talking about failures. If entrepreneurs aren’t “killing it,” then they’re likely to be struggling alone.

The fail fast mantra doesn’t help those founders who fail slow and ultimately burnout. The entrepreneurial burnout is real and can land founders in the ER if they’re not careful. Avis Mulhall, founding CEO of Australia’s first disability-focused technology incubator, warns people not to put founders on a pedestal and envision them as the pinnacle of success.

As someone who has experienced a burnout, Avis explains that entrepreneurs are just like everyone else. “They have the same struggles, the same fears and anxieties. The difference is that they do it anyway and they don’t let fears or anxieties hold them back.”

Technology is propelling businesses into the future faster than ever before. While the speed of technology and the rate of change may cause an entrepreneur to fail, it may also offer a solution. And that solution comes in the form of a virtual assistant, a chatbot that will listen to the stories of failure and lend a helping, artificial hand.

The Rise of Chatbots

Do machines dream?

Chatbots date all the way back to the 1950s when computer scientist Alan Turing created the first machine intelligence test: the Turing Test. Computer scientist, Joseph Weizenbaum used this test on computer program ELIZA to trial the first ever conversation between a computer and a real human. ELIZA is considered the first chatbot and has led to the rise of chatbots in the 21st century. Today, the ELIZAs of the world work for companies behind the scenes, often as the customer’s first point of contact.

Chabots are commonly used by companies to provide customers with additional information and help them navigate through a host of products and services. Every month, virtual assistant Siri helps 41.4 million users find the information they need, without having to physically navigate the web.

While chatbots have helped millions of businesses improve their customer experience, at the same time, Hollywood is painting a dark and macabre picture of A.I’s. The A.I’s in iRobot and Terminator have surpassed human intelligence and threaten to kill us all.

But, will the future of chatbots and artificial intelligence really end in fire and brimstone?

More recently, chatbots have found a new reason to exist. And that existence is marked by helping people who suffer from mental health issues find the support they need.

Could a chatbot help guide CEOs through the struggles of startup life and steer them away from an entrepreneurial burnout?

Meet Amelie, the Artificially Intelligent Chatbot

Julian Bright is the founder of Amelie.ai, an Australian mental health chatbot that connects people through Facebook messenger with support services and resources. Julian believes technology can play an important role in servicing communities that are isolated and supporting people who just need someone to talk to.

“Having worked in startups, it’s easy to see why mental health issues may be more pronounced,” says Julian. “Entrepreneurs are constantly juggling lots of different things and dealing with the ups and downs of startup life is hard.”

To help entrepreneurs like himself alleviate the pressures of startup life, Julian looked into the rise of chatbots to find alternative ways A.I could provide assistance to humans.

Earlier this year, a study on virtual-agent therapists was conducted with war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. Research concluded that war veterans were up to three times more likely to reveal symptoms of post-traumatic stress to a chatbot than on a military health assessment.

This study sparked Julian’s idea of using chatbots to help assist people with mental health issues. “That’s where the idea came from: I wanted to understand how a chatbot could be used to help reduce that stigma. And it’s a stigma associated with people not only seeking help, but opening up about their issues.”

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Chatbots are designing a new kind of conversation that mimics human interaction and replaces the human touch with an artificial one. But, it’s not just chatbots changing the way we communicate, wearable technology and IoT devices are growing in power and importance. To learn more about how artificial intelligence is transforming the way we communicate,  join us at our event: Conversational Design: Chatbots, wearables, IoT, and the death of the screen.

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