Ethical Issues in Text Mining for Mental Health

In M. Dehghani & R. Boyd (ed.), The Atlas of Language Analysis in Psychology (forthcoming)
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A recent systematic review of Machine Learning (ML) approaches to health data, containing over 100 studies, found that the most investigated problem was mental health (Yin et al., 2019). Relatedly, recent estimates suggest that between 165,000 and 325,000 health and wellness apps are now commercially available, with over 10,000 of those designed specifically for mental health (Carlo et al., 2019). In light of these trends, the present chapter has three aims: (1) provide an informative overview of some of the recent work taking place at the intersection of text mining and mental health so that we can (2) highlight and analyze several pressing ethical issues that are arising in this rapidly growing field and (3) suggest productive directions for how these issues might be better addressed within future interdisciplinary work to ensure the responsible development of text mining approaches in psychology generally, and in mental health fields, specifically. In Section 1, we review some of the recent literature on text-mining and mental health in the contexts of traditional experimental settings, social media, and research involving electronic health records. Then, in Section 2, we introduce and discuss ethical concerns that arise before, during, and after research is conducted. Finally, in Section 3, we offer several suggestions about how ethical oversight of text-mining research might be improved to be more responsive to the concerns mapped out in Section 2.

Author Profiles

Phoebe Friesen
McGill University


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