Mental health issues are rising at an alarming rate. A recent report reveals that one out of six people lives with mental health-related issues. At the same time, there is a severe shortage of mental health experts to facilitate adequate support to clients. The overburdened healthcare system has necessitated the development of alternative solutions to address people's treatment needs, such as automated Virtual Mental Health Assistants (VMHAs) or seeking support via peer counseling platforms. Popular chatbots like Woebot and Wysa, along with peer platforms Reddit (unorganized) and Talklife (organized), are known for assisting support-seekers. With the advent of Large Language Models (LLMs) and their breakthrough ability to generate text, more and more such solutions are coming into the picture. While LLMs and LLM-based systems may appear to be beneficial, they have limitations in terms of truly assisting a real therapist or acting as a therapist. This tutorial aims to explore the synergy between Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Mental Health Counseling. The session will delve into the significance of NLP applications in enhancing various facets of mental health support, spanning from virtual mental health assistants to online peer therapy. Additionally, discussions will revolve around available resources, current state-of-the-art methodologies, ethical considerations, and future challenges in this evolving domain.



The organizers are: