WASHINGTON, D.C. — Whether you’re chatting face to face or on the phone, your voice can say a lot about you, including your mental health.
“This was a problem before the pandemic. The pandemic has only exacerbated that problem,” said David Liu, who is CEO of Sonde Health.
A CDC study looked at the mental health of 800,000 AmericansThe study covered the period from the summer 2020 to earlier in 2019. Nearly 2 out 5 adults had symptoms of anxiety or depression, which is 42 percent. This is an increase from 36% at the beginning of the study.
Young adults were particularly affected with 57% of those aged between 18 and 29.
As mental health issues emerged during the pandemic, Liu’s company developed the free Sonde Mental Fitness appIt is as simple as that. Start by recording a 30-second sample from your voice.
“The app will prompt you with a very simple question, such as ‘How is your day going? What’s on your mind?’ Something very open-ended,” Liu explained.
After you speak, the program analyzes your voice to determine if there are any signs of depression. It also examines six vocal features.
“We know that through these specific features, such as smoothness or control, we’ll give you give us an indication of whether or not your voice, again these vocal features, are in the normal of range or not,” he said.
“There are very specific nuances within the human voice that are able to be picked up on in these vocal biomarkers that allow them to really hone in on changes that occur when someone is dealing with some sort of mental or physical stress,” said Lindsey Venesky, a licensed psychologist with the Cognitive Behavior Institute near Pittsburgh.
The app was recently used by several dozen patients in a pilot study.
“We really like the objectivity of the app because there is not a way that clients can really adjust their voice sample, in order to be able to swing the results one way or the other,” Venesky said.
She said that some patients were surprised by the results.
“Interestingly, some of them even provided feedback to clients who thought they were doing pretty well and their score was lower,” Venesky said. “And they weren’t sure why, until we were able to kind of dive in deeper and like, ‘Oh wow, I guess I had a lot more weighing on me this week that I realized.’”
It’s a mental health awareness which David Liu hopes people will choose to tap into.
“We really think that this is the right way to be able to attack and get the awareness and get people activated, not only to talk about mental health, but to act on it,” he said.
The app’s developers say privacy is a top priority and any information a person shares in it will remain confidential unless they choose to share with a mental health provider.