Most people get the idea that your body is what you put into it–diet, exercise. Thus the endless waves of vegan, organic, keto, gluten-free… But you also get what you put into your work, your relationship, and your life! It starts with your mindset. When I first started out as...
Some may ask why a solution like Quest Depot is even necessary. After all, many therapeutic methods already address children and families. The answer is that while many of these approaches address changes in technology, knowledge, and our social climate, curaJOY doesn’t work by strictly adapting to or dealing with these problems. Instead, we build with them presently in mind. Quest Depot brings a variety of evidence-based treatment approaches through its adaptive AI, enabling users to find the best treatment for them as individuals. Moreover, its virtual platform is 24/7 and omnichannel, ensuring that support is available anywhere, anytime. Its diverse and dynamic approach also ensures that the user feels seen in their virtual coaches, buddies, and mentors.
There has never been a better time to take action toward more efficient and affordable treatment, especially if we can improve access to families who would not otherwise have it. We’re deep in a mental health crisis: approximately 17-28% of families worldwide involve a parent with mental health symptoms. In the US specifically, this number sits at approximately 18.2% of parents. This number skyrockets for family caregivers, with between 40% and 70% having clinically significant symptoms of depression.
Things aren’t looking better for our youth, unfortunately. In 2019, one-fifth of children and adolescents aged 12-17 reported experiencing a major depressive attitude. As we well know, the additional disturbance of the pandemic did not just affect education and routines, but also had a persistent negative effect on mental health. According to the CDC, over 20% of parents of children ages 5-12 reported worsening mental or emotional health of their children since the start. For children of minority and multicultural communities, these numbers are even starker. Worse still, access to care became unattainable for many during this time. Though telehealth has taken off, children who relied on school for their access have been left with few solutions. In many cases, practitioners, family homes, or the children themselves were simply not equipped for traditional medicine translated directly into telehealth.
1, 2 “The State of Mental Health in America.” Mental Health America, www.mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america. Accessed 15 Apr. 2022.
3 Hubert, Sarah, and Isabelle Aujoulat. “Parental Burnout: When Exhausted Mothers Open Up.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 9 1021. 26 Jun. 2018, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01021
4 Hhs.gov. 2022. https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-youth-mental-health-advisory.pdf. [online] Available at: <https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-youth-mental-health-advisory.pdf> [Accessed 15 April 2022].
5 Catherine K. Ettman, Gregory H. Cohen, Salma M. Abdalla, Laura Sampson, Ludovic Trinquart, Brian C. Castrucci, Rachel H. Bork, Melissa A. Clark, Ira Wilson, Patrick M. Vivier, Sandro Galea,
Persistent depressive symptoms during COVID-19: a national, population-representative, longitudinal study of U.S. adults,
The Lancet Regional Health – Americas,
Simply put: our children’s mental health, which was already devastatingly poor, has worsened drastically over these past few years, with their access to treatment dwindling in turn. So many parents were already suffering their own mental health struggles, only to be put into intermittent lockdown. Now, children, parents, families, and teachers are asked to pick up the pieces of a faulty system.
Despite our online communities, many children have felt isolated these past few years. Our desire is to work to build healthier relationships between children and their families by putting them in a safe, encouraging, gamified setting. In these settings, children will learn positive coping skills, healthy social interactions, and self-care while building their self-confidence. Additionally, by getting the whole family involved, parents will come to a greater understanding with their children and develop their own social-emotional skills. By giving children, especially minority children, the tools to communicate with the key people in their lives and develop a healthier self-image, we can reduce inequity and increase access at the root.
So how does Quest Depot work? Primarily, it gamifies the user’s goals with animated quests, mood check-ins, and guided journal prompts to promote emotional intelligence and adapt to individual needs. They can add in friends and family as allies. As they progress, these allies can sponsor rewards, which can be cashed out as gift cards. The user can also develop their relationships with these individuals, as Quest Depot’s AI works to add activities based on interests, relationships, and age.
Quest Depot uses machine learning to give users insight into their and their allies’ personalities, love languages, communication styles, and more. This is accomplished through games and quizzes within an engrossing fantasy setting. It then offers the user templates for conflict resolution and growth, working through unhealthy relationship patterns to form and grow bonds. Throughout this process, users engage not just with their allies but with QuestMates: conversational AI “residents” of the app’s world. Unlike a therapist or many traditional supports, QuestMates are available whenever the user needs them. However, they offer many of the same benefits, as they are powered by Natural Language Processing and are trained to use methods from cognitive, behavioral, acceptance, and commitment therapy in their dialogue. These varied characters support the user in learning from others’ perspectives and gaining understanding. At the same time, this approach helps minority children to feel seen in ways that they may not in traditional counseling settings.
From a scientific perspective, why do we believe in Quest Depot’s methodology and its ability to change lives? First, its system is based on gamification and positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Many traditional methods for dealing with disruptive or challenging behavior from students are punishment-based. However, not only are these methods not as effective for some children – children with ASD or ADHD, especially – but they only, at best, remove the negative behavior rather than encourage positive behavior. Alternatively, Quest Depot supports the child’s autonomy and self-direction, adapting to their interests and personality to motivate them while encouraging them to succeed. Individuals with autism, specifically, demonstrate impaired executive function in testing settings, especially with working memory. However, studies have indicated positive reinforcement significantly improved performance, even when generalized to untrained stimuli.
Quest Depot also utilizes strategies built to increase user motivation, hence the gamification. Challenging game tasks can teach children social and educational skills while increasing their motivation through various design choices. For example, children enjoy customizing their avatars and are engaged by seeing themselves on the screen. Beyond motivation, though, the games truly work! Hall of Heroes users have shown significant improvement in communication ability and a decline in feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.
Similarly, the Zoo U social skills training program demonstrated improved social self-efficacy and social satisfaction in a 2015 study and has been successfully used to assess students’ social skills subtly. Notably, many of these games have had cross-cultural assessment success. When combined with the machine learning of Quest Depot, these same concepts can be used to locate problem areas and address them in upcoming quests. Additionally, research has indicated that of economic, socio-cultural, educational, geo-regional, and personality factors, socio-cultural factors have the greatest impact on student motivation. The community model gives children another reason to continue engaging with the missions and growing their skills.
Then, returning to the model of around-the-clock access that we utilize: how does this machine-learning strategy benefit children from a scientific perspective? Quest Depot’s approach is created with today’s emerging technology rather than compromising to limits of existing solutions. Many aspects of the medical field are beginning to move towards a patient-centered approach rather than diagnosis-centered: meeting patients where they’re at. However, these approaches are costly in time and money. Even if we wish to be there anytime, anywhere, we cannot. By creating an adaptable system that responds to individual needs, we give children the skills to work towards self-efficacy.
AI guides also present us with an incredible opportunity to reach minorities. Unfortunately, care and counseling aren’t spaces of equal access. Research has persistently shown that children of color have even higher rates of mental illness but are less likely to access care. Feeling understood also significantly affects treatment efficacy, but approximately 86% of psychologists are white, while an estimated 74% of therapists were women in 2019. How can a marginalized child feel represented in these circumstances? With virtual conversations and AI, Quest Depot now can give children access to counseling from characters ranging from a male acceptance-commitment therapy coach to a Holocaust survivor or a South American young professional. QuestMates continue to evolve with time spent in the Quest Depot space. As an AI, continued interaction furthers its development, allowing a more personalized and productive user experience.
Mental wellness is not just the realm of the individual. It’s environment, family, treatment, acceptance, growth, and much more. We are all so different; why not highlight those differences through technology that gives us the tools to be us in a healthier way? Quest Depot works, from the ground up, to help families answer: how do we navigate today’s educational and emotional landscape in a way that lets them achieve the success we know they can?