DUBAI: Online expert advice on emotional and mental health issues is being offered via the Arabic version of Google Assistant in response to wellbeing concerns fueled by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant developed by Google has been tailored to deal with questions surrounding the subject and provide users with possible coping mechanisms approved by licensed therapists.
The internet giant has partnered with UAE-based mental health group Safe Space to draft a series of coping mechanisms on which Google Assistant will base its answers.
Najeeb Jarrar, head of consumer product marketing at Google MENA, told Arab News: “While last year was quite difficult for many of us, I was relieved to see that people proactively came online to look for ways to help themselves and their loved ones. I hope these responses bring reliable and expert-reviewed coping mechanisms a little closer to those who need it.
“Our work with Safe Space will provide the millions of people who use the Arabic Google Assistant every day, expert-reviewed responses about emotional wellbeing that is simple and accessible.
“To everyone who came online to learn how to take care of their wellbeing and that of their loved ones over the past year, I hope you found this feature helpful,” said Jarrar.
Arabic speakers can now find informed suggestions on how best to cope when feeling sad, lonely, tired, scared, or angry. In some cases, Google Assistant encourages people to seek further expert advice.
The initiative follows Google Trends data showing a rise in interest in emotional wellbeing matters. Globally, Arabic online searches for “how to improve my mental health” have grown by 1,100 percent in the past five years, peaking in August, while interest in the Arabic word for therapist hit a 10-year high during the same month.
Dani Hakim, co-founder of Safe Space, said: “With so many people struggling right now, it’s fabulous to see Google being part of the solution by making first-line emotional wellbeing support accessible.
“This initiative will play a really important role in closing the gap around education and awareness in the region. Not everyone feels comfortable asking these questions out loud, so there is now a safe space that will be available to all through Google Assistant.”
The Arabic version of Google Assistant understands all dialects and responds in modern standard Arabic. The service operates with Google’s latest machine learning technology to help millions of people around the world organize their day through their mobile phones.