How this mental health app uses ChatGPT to improve its chatbot

Andrea Campos struggled with depression for years before founding Yana, a mental health app, in 2017. The app’s chatbot provides users with emotional companionship in Spanish. Although initially reluctant, Campos began using generative artificial intelligence for the Yana chatbot after ChatGPT launched in 2022. Yana, which recently launched its English version, has 15 million users and is available in Latin America and the US.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How has your product evolved since you introduced ChatGPT?

We didn’t initially use generative AI because we thought it was far from ready for mental health support. We designed and monitored our chatbot’s responses with decision trees. But when ChatGPT launched and we saw what it could do, it wasn’t a question of whether to use the tool or not, but how quickly – otherwise we would fall behind. It was challenging as everyone started to move quickly with generative AI, but our advantage was that after using our chatbot for a while, we had collected over 2 billion data points that were invaluable to the refinement of our app. One thing is clear: it is crucial to have a model tailored to the specific needs of our product.

What was the biggest challenge in developing an AI wellness partner?

Firstly, to create a safe and intelligent chatbot that provides adequate answers to our users. Another key challenge was our initial focus on Spanish-speaking users. Addressing regional dialects, slang, and cultural differences was difficult because most AI models were trained primarily in English. There are thousands of ways someone can indicate in Spanish that they are in crisis.

Why enter the US market where a wide range of English-language AI companions already exist?

There are many AI companions in English, but most are not designed for emotional companionship or are aimed at businesses. We believe it’s time to offer English-speaking users the same support tools that have helped millions of people in Latin America. Additionally, there is a huge Latino population in the US that we also want to reach with our Spanish version.