The pandemic is having a serious impact on our mental health.
According to a warning from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization in May: “The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is already extremely concerning.” The biggest factors affecting mental health include “social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment.”
But, what if all of this time in isolation could be used to promote self-healing?
This is the hope of Tyler Bryden, founder of the technology startup Speak Ai, which is building a revolutionary digital tool that helps users to manage their thoughts, notes, and media. Its AI automatically analyzes user’s entries and provides invaluable, life changing self insights.
We recently sat down with Bryden to learn more about his company’s innovative technology and its role in the future of psychedelics.
Psychedelic Invest: How did you become interested in psychedelic therapy?
Tyler Bryden: I had some of my first psychedelic experiences following a competitive hockey career that ended abruptly when I was 21. I found myself in an existential crisis of sorts.
But, in 2012 and 2013 there wasn’t much context for the world of psychedelics in regards to integration with traditional therapy or even information related to dosing. I ended up going through the traditional mental healthcare system, which is full of shortcomings, and I found myself left to self heal.
PI: How did that lead you develop Speak AI?
TB: When I went back to my normal life after my crisis, I started a web development company. I was mostly doing front-end work, including website design, but no one was coming to my websites. So, I spent a lot of time figuring out analytics and marketing. In doing so, I figured out how to harness all the amazing data that was coming through and make it useful.
Simultaneously, I was using Evernote at the time to document my thoughts, as well as writing in journals. But I was always a big audio guy and I found that I didn’t have a system where I could upload and extract insights. I was frustrated by these gaps and thought I could build something better.
These were really the inklings of the audio, video, and text processing system that would become Speak.
PI: Can you explain Speak’s technology?
TB: The technology analyzes months or years (or whatever timeline the user chooses) of notes to provide valuable insights and feedback. Currently, we are working with a couple of companies in the space that are conducting recordings or virtual telehealth sessions. Then, our technology extracts insights automatically, sharing them both with the treatment provider and the patient.
PI: How does this platform help providers?
TB: We’re focused on making structured or unstructured recordings more valuable for both the treatment provider and the patient. By doing so, we offer a much different way to approach therapy.
For example, if you’re going through conventional therapy, a lot of times you’re spending 45 minutes rehashing what’s happened in the last two weeks before the appointment. After you spend most of your time talking about that, you often don’t spend the last 15 minutes on the issues that you have to tackle going forward. That’s a lost opportunity.
Speak takes an abundance of recordings, notes, and information from a user, analyzes it, and presents its insights in such a way that providers can better process it and make more informed decisions based on a wealth of contextual information. From a patient standpoint, it also promotes the ability to work on self-healing, rather than be completely dependent on time spent with a provider.
PI: What would you say the biggest challenges are in mental health tech right now?
TB: Because it’s so easy for companies to abuse people’s personal information (intentionally or not), there’s a lot of fear around technology coming into mental health care, as well as psychedelics. Talkspace, which is probably one of the leading providers in this field, has gotten a lot of bad press for sharing data in inappropriate ways, breaking guidelines, and honestly breaking the trust of a lot of users.
PI: How do you see health tech applying in psychedelics?
TB: When people use psychedelics, they can get to some of the most vulnerable states in their lives. How does technology interface with that? I’m not sure. Also, if you’re going through a therapy session and you know it’s being recorded, does that change what you share or even how you heal? It’s hard to know, even with clinical trials done to gather research and data.
One thing that our technology does very effectively, however, is bridge the gap between psychedelic field trips and home life. When someone returns from an experience with a spiritual awakening of sorts, but doesn’t have the right support at home, they can get lost.
For example, we are treating a lot of veterans with PTSD with psychedelics right now, and they are having transformative experiences. But then they’re going back to their house and their family, and it’s almost as unrecognizable as when they first came back from the military. This great internal shift in a patient can actually cause destabilization in the families. Speak’s technology can be a great tool to help patients transition.
Psychedelics are in the mental health space already, and they have infrastructure and the science. As soon as the industry loses its stigma, similar to cannabis 10 years ago, this space is going to take off. We want to help support that growth.
Learn more about the capabilities and applications of Speak at speakai.co.