CITRIS experts discuss chatbots for student mental health support

A robotic hand reaches toward a human hand.

Can — and should — chatbots help students navigate mental health crises?

As higher education tackles a worsening student mental health crisis on slim budgets, institutions are looking at the potential benefits of using chatbots, or programs designed to simulate conversation, to provide support for college students.

In an article in the Nov. 25 issue of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, two CITRIS experts weighed in on the ethical and technical ramifications.

CITRIS Executive Director Camille Crittenden sees tremendous opportunity for chatbots enabled with artificial intelligence, even amid challenges. She says that to address privacy concerns, students should be told clearly how the information they share will be used.

Brandie Nonnecke, founding director of the CITRIS Policy Lab, says, “As our campuses turn more toward these automated tools, it’s important for them to make sure they have the guardrails in place before widespread adoption.” Nonnecke served as co-chair of the University of California Presidential Working Group on Artificial Intelligence, which released a set of guidelines for the use of AI across the UC system.