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NEDA replace Ai chatbot “Tessa” with human helpline staff

NEDA replace Ai chatbot “Tessa” with human helpline staff

Ai Chatbot to Replace Human Staffers at National Eating Disorders Association Helpline

NEDA replaces human helpline staff with an AI chatbot "Tessa"

NEDA’s decision to replace the helpline staff with an AI chatbot called Tessa has sparked controversy. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) recently announced a significant change to its helpline operations. In a move that has sparked debate and concern, NEDA is replacing its dedicated staff and volunteers with a chatbot named Tessa. This decision comes in response to the increasing volume of calls, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which overwhelmed the helpline’s capacity. In this article, we will explore the implications of this change and the potential impact on the callers seeking support.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has long been a source of guidance and assistance for individuals struggling with eating disorders. However, the organization has now decided to disband its helpline in its current form. Last year alone, nearly 70,000 people reached out to the helpline, seeking help and support. This number doubled during the pandemic, as individuals faced not only disordered eating but also other crisis situations such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and instances of child abuse.

Challenges Faced by Volunteers and Staff

The surge in calls placed an immense burden on the volunteers and staff members of the helpline. The increased volume of crisis-type situations left them feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demand. As a result, the volunteers and staff members made the decision to unionize. They recognized the importance of self-care and acknowledged that without prioritizing their own well-being, they could not effectively support those in need.

NEDA’s Response: Replacing Human Staffers with Ai Chatbot

In response to the notification of unionization, NEDA made the controversial announcement to discontinue the helpline in its current form and introduce an automated Ai Chatbot called Tessa. The organization cited legal liability concerns, as the volunteers lacked professional crisis training. NEDA emphasized the need for callers to access appropriate services that could provide the level of assistance required. Furthermore, the extended wait times experienced by overwhelmed helpline callers were deemed unacceptable in the digital age, prompting the need for a more efficient system.

The Limitations of the Chatbot

While research suggests that individuals who interacted with the chatbot had better outcomes compared to those on the waitlist, many express doubts about Tessa’s ability to replicate the human interaction provided by the helpline. Dr. Ellen Fitzsimmons-Craft, a professor of Psychiatry at Washington University, who was part of the team that developed Tessa, acknowledges that the chatbot was designed to be empathetic but emphasizes that it is not a substitute for human connection. Tessa currently serves as a tool to facilitate learning and provide strategies for addressing disordered eating and body image concerns.

Perspectives from Experts

Dr. Marzyeh Ghassemi, a professor of Machine Learning and Health at MIT, shares concerns about the generic responses that a chatbot like Tessa might offer. Individuals reaching out for support and disclosing their struggles may not find generic tips or links helpful. The personal touch, empathy, and shared experiences offered by volunteers who have battled eating disorders themselves cannot be replicated by an Ai Chatbot automated system.

Conclusion

The National Eating Disorders Association’s decision to replace human staffers with a chatbot marks a significant shift in the provision of support for individuals struggling with eating disorders. While NEDA acknowledges the limitations of Tessa, the organization believes that the introduction of the chatbot will help address the issues of overwhelming call volumes and long wait times. However, concerns remain about the ability of Tessa to provide the same level of empathy and understanding as human volunteers. Individuals seeking assistance are encouraged to explore alternative mental health resources to ensure they receive the support they need.

NEDA’s decision to replace the helpline staff with an AI chatbot called Tessa has sparked controversy. While NEDA claims it was driven by the need for improved access to specialized treatment options, former workers view it as an attempt to undermine the union. Regardless of the motives behind the decision, the introduction of Tessa marks a significant transition for NEDA, as they aim to provide efficient and accessible support to individuals dealing with eating disorders.

FAQ’s

Will Tessa be available 24/7?

Tessa is designed to provide support and guidance around the clock. However, it’s important to note that the level of assistance might differ from that of a human staffer.

Can a chatbot replace the personal connection provided by human volunteers?

While Tessa aims to offer empathy and strategies for addressing disordered eating, many believe that the personal connection and shared experiences provided by human volunteers cannot be replicated.

How can individuals facing immediate crises receive assistance?

NEDA encourages individuals facing immediate crises to seek professional crisis services and support, which can provide the appropriate level of assistance required.

Are there alternative helplines or resources available?

Although NEDA is transitioning to the Tessa chatbot, there are other helplines and mental health resources available that can provide the support and guidance individuals may need.

Where can I find mental health help?

If you or someone you know is in need of mental health help, you can text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected with a certified crisis counselor.


I would love to hear your opinion and any questions you may have regarding the chatbot replacing human staffers at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline. Please feel free to take part in the discussion and share your thoughts.

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By visiting our website, you’ll have access to these articles and many others that cover a wide range of AI-related topics, news, tools, and gadgets. We hope you find them informative and engaging.

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