The Arabic version of Google Assistant has recently added the ability to respond to queries related to emotional wellbeing, by providing coping mechanisms drafted by licensed therapists.
The move comes in response to an increasing interest in emotional wellbeing and mental health on Google Assistant and Google Search over the past year.
Google worked with Safe Space, a UAE-based mental health organisation and their network licensed therapists, who drafted a series of coping mechanisms on which Google Assistant will base its answers on.
Arabic speakers can now find these responses if they tell Assistant they are feeling sad, lonely, tired, scared, or angry. In several of these responses, Google Assistant will encourage people to seek expert advice when asked about feelings of worry and fear.
This Google Assistant feature is in response to an increased interest in emotional wellbeing, as shown by Google Trends data.
This shows that, in Egypt, search interest for mental health reached its 10-year high in May 2020. Globally, Arabic search queries for “how to improve my mental health” grew by 1,100% in the past five years, or between 2016 and 2021, to reach the trend peak in August 2020.
The data also showed that interest in the Arabic word for therapist reached a 10-year high in August 2020.
Najeeb Jarrar, head of consumer product marketing at Google MENA, said, “Helping people reach that piece of information, especially when they need it most, is at the heart of everything we do at Google.”
He added, “Our work with Safe Space will provide the millions of people who use the Arabic Google Assistant everyday 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 find this feature helpful,” Jarrar said.
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.”
He said that the initiative will play an 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 the Google Assistant, Hakim said.
“The Google Assistant is designed to help and delight Arabic speakers around the world. In between millions of commands to set alarms, play music, and hear jokes many Arabic speakers also told their Assistant that they were experiencing feelings of sadness, fear, and loneliness,” said Rola Najem, a writer on the Google Assistant personality team, “To everyone who uses Google Assistant, I hope you find these responses which we worked on with licensed therapists helpful.”
The Arabic version of the Google Assistant understands all dialects and responds in modern standard Arabic. Assistant operates with Google’s latest machine learning technology to help millions of people around the world organise their day with the help of their phones.