Jammu and Kashmir have introduced a groundbreaking initiative aimed at providing online counseling and support for individuals facing mental health challenges. Known as ‘Zindagi,’ this pioneering project stands as India’s first chatbot-based platform that utilizes artificial intelligence and natural language processing to interact with users, offering personalized guidance and a wealth of resources.
Accessible through a website or mobile app, the chatbot is designed to be friendly, empathetic, and non-judgmental. By asking users a series of carefully crafted questions to assess their mood, stress levels, coping skills, and risk factors, it tailors its responses to provide custom feedback, suggestions, engaging activities, and even referrals to mental health professionals.
This transformative project is a collaborative effort between the Department of Psychiatry at the Government Medical College, Srinagar, and the Department of Information Technology at the Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora. With the support of the Jammu and Kashmir administration and the National Health Mission, ‘Zindagi’ seeks to bridge the gap in mental health services within the region, which has experienced decades of violence and conflict.
According to a survey conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières in 2015, an alarming 1.8 million adults in Kashmir suffer from various mental disorders, while 45% of adults have encountered symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. ‘Zindagi’ aims to cater to individuals who may hesitate to seek professional help due to factors like stigma, lack of awareness, or limited accessibility. Moreover, it aims to alleviate the strain on the existing mental health infrastructure, which is currently inadequate and stretched thin. The chatbot’s 24/7 availability and multitasking capabilities ensure assistance for multiple users simultaneously.
Looking ahead, the project team envisions expanding the chatbot’s scope and functionality by incorporating additional languages, features, and modules. They also plan to conduct thorough research and evaluation to assess the impact and effectiveness of the chatbot on the mental health outcomes of its users.