Sunrise launches its AI-powered group chat app to tackle mental health issues

Sunrise Health app

The market for digital solutions for mental health just got a new player — Sunrise Health, which came out of stealth to present at TechCrunch Disrupt NY’s Startup Battlefield competition.

The startup has launched a smart group chat app that reportedly goes beyond what any other solution on the market is offering. It does that by combining the support of group chat, the openness afforded by anonymity, the guidance of professional therapists and the safeguard of artificial intelligence (AI) watching for abuse and emergencies.

The app, now in beta, is available for free to patients, and is licensed as software-as-a-service to healthcare providers, which can improve their efficiency through the app, and eventually refer patients between psychiatrists, case managers and therapists. Meanwhile, institutions can use the high-level analytics to assess the impact of their care, spot trends and pre-emptively improve care.

“There is a huge gap right now between what clinicians in psychiatry are doing and what novel treatments are available through technology,” co-founder Shrenik Jain told TechCrunch. As a first responder, he saw mental health victims die from suicide and overdoses, but also found his fellow rescue workers struggle with PTSD yet refuse help out of fear of being stigmatized or judged.

The application first asks the user to select the mental health affliction they’re dealing with from a range including depression, grief, PTSD and substance abuse. From there, he or she is additionally assessed by a professional therapist moderator in a one-on-one chat and given diagnostic forms to complete. Then, the user is “placed” into a support group of around a dozen people with a similar condition. Chats in this group are semi-automatically moderated by an artificial intelligence-based natural language processing system that can recognize and delete abusive messages.

In addition to chat which is available 24/7, users are also able to join moderator-led VoIP group phone calls.

Sunrise has raised $200,000 in cash and in-kind cloud computing credits. The seed funding was provided by TEDCO and the Abell Foundation, and the grant money by Johns Hopkins and the NIH. The startup has completed one pilot program of its app, has another running now with 30 users and has plans for five more pilots soon. Also, it has several Letters of Intent from metropolitan governments and healthcare systems like hospitals, plus collaborations with Johns Hopkins, Yale and Brown.

Sunrise’s competitors includes Talkspace and