390,000 children and young people in England are being treated for mental health problems at any time with a further 20% rejected for referral for specialist CAMHS intervention. Anxiety disorders are common, occurring in 5-18% of all children and adolescents. They are associated with impairment in academic, social and personal functioning with significant comorbidity including depression, substance abuse and subsequent adult anxiety, major depression and suicide attempts. 75% of mental health conditions are established by the age of 26.
The treatment and management of children’s mental health costs the NHS £700m each year. Only one-in-four children and young people currently have access to the mental health treatment and support they need and only 40% of those referred by a GP to CAMHS services receive treatment.
Phobot is a chatbot designed to help young people manage anxiety through the application of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It is designed to be easy for young people to use through a low-friction dialogue-based interface that delivers therapy in bite-sized chunks to improve engagement that is available at the user’s convenience rather than the therapist’s.
A proof-of-concept prototype has been developed and testing has shown that it is effective at reducing social anxiety. A further stage of development and testing is being planned.