Meet the former model turned psychologist using AI to help mental health

Could you explain what PsycApps is and how you developed the idea?

PsycApps is a Digital Mental Health company that is using gamification, AI and chatbots to ‘hack’ the brains reward system.

PsycApps is trying to find a way how to get people suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses intrinsically motivated to stick to therapeutic digital programs. Many mental health issues include symptoms such as lack of motivation and cognitive impairment. Using gamification and studying behavioural engagement patterns to keep people motivated will be the Big Change that can better and save lives. In a fast-paced, ever changing digital world, what could be more attractive than a game that helps you fight your mental illness!?

PsycApps has partnered up with a US based game development company called Collision Studios. Collision Studios has developed a vast suite of successful apps and games such as 300, The Walking Dead and Barbie. With their help, PsycApps aims to create a game that will intrigue and captivate a large audience. We think that everybody is interested in the psychology of relationship and mental health, thus making it an easy on-boarding process for users. The idea started out as my PhD thesis and then morphed over time, the more I learned about apps, mental health tech and user behaviours.

What mental illness can PsycApps help with and how does it work?

Right now, the app is making a detour into the gaming field in order to figure out the best way to use gamification so that people stay intrinsically motivated to stick to therapeutic apps. We are teaching users psychological concepts such as generalisation and emotional bidding which they can use in everyday life, but are still extremely relevant in mental illness. The next step will be a therapeutic ant-depression game. We have anxiety and eating disorders on our radar as well. One step at a time.

Silja Litvin, Founder of PsycApps

Silja Litvin, Founder of PsycApps

As an ex-model could you talk about your relationship with your body and from your experiences what changes you feel society needs to make?

When I was scouted, I was 12 cm too big around the hips (you can weigh 500kg as long as you have your 90 cm hips), and I learned for the first time, that my body wasn’t adequate. I guess I’m still lucky I had been able to turn 18 before feeling the body pressure young girls nowadays feel around 11/12. So that’s when I started dieting, and I’m not happy to say that I tried every diet under the sun, some shady ones as well. The pressure is huge, and I was always on the ‘curvy’ side as a size 8. I didn’t develop a proper eating disorder, but after studying psychology and working with eating disorder patients at NELFT I self-diagnosed myself with anorexic thinking patterns. It’s still a struggle, and I wish humans wouldn’t do that to themselves. Society can be toxic.

What do you think AI and machine learning can do for body image or eating disorders (if anything at all)?

I wish there was an AI that would track your social media, and let you know when your consumption is attacking your confidence and mood. Studies show that anything over 20 min a day can lower self-confidence, body satisfaction and raise depression levels. If the same AI would flag which sites/pages are extra harmful, and offer antidote-insights, that would be great. I can assure you that most influencers would lose their jobs, though. We will develop a beautiful game in that direction… I can barely wait!

What is the future for AI and mental health? What is the plan for PsycApps?

Right now, AI is great for diagnostics, and it will stay that way for the next 10-15 years. Maybe we’ll be able to develop some rudimentary, low-level therapeutic bots, but not soon. I think AI will also be a great help for therapists to get feedback and help, as well.

Check out the PsycApps website for more!