About the Project

The ChatPal project will develop and trial a chatbot to support and promote mental wellbeing in rural areas. 

Mental wellbeing is an important aspect in rural life but there is a need for digital wellbeing services to promote self-care and wellbeing at the point of need (24/7). Traditional one-to-one services support people with chronic mental illness as well as mild-to-moderate mental illness but this is expensive and resource limited. One-to-one intervention support requires significant travel for clients living in rural areas; hence accessibility to traditional treatments are a particular concern. Moreover, given mental ill health remains a stigma, citizens often feel embarrassed when setting up appointments with a support person due to the lack of anonymisation. ChatPal will focus on promoting the use of a chatbot to support general wellbeing allowing people to take good care whilst looking to prevent more serious conditions.

ChatPal will undertake pilot trials in up to 5 NPA regions (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Sweden and Ireland), increasing citizen access to wellbeing support and coaching using a conversational user interface, or chatbot. The chatbot will be based partly on the needs analysis workshops carried out in the NPA VoicePal preparatory project. This chatbot service will be available 24/7 and allows users to receive wellbeing support through a natural voice or text based conversation that is driven by artificial intelligence. ChatPal augments and extends the reach of traditional existing services but does not replace these services. The technology will be usable and intuitive as it is similar to everyday human-to-human conversations allowing the technology to be adopted by those with poor computer literacy. ChatPal will enable people to easily access support at the point of need in the form of a conversation.

The objectives of the ChatPal are to:

  1. Understand the mental health and digital mental health requirements of older and younger citizens in rural and sparsely populated NPA regions
  2. Co-create and pilot a multilingual chatbot service that is effective for providing a blended digital mental health service supporting project workers and skills coaches across different NPA regions and age groups
  3. Inform, and to increase awareness and attitudes of mental health and healthcare professionals regarding the use of digital health tools and particularly chatbots to augment and improve mental health service provision
  1. To inform best co-creation practices for designing healthcare chatbots.
  2. To improve the awareness and attitudes of citizens and professionals in using and promoting digital mental health technologies.
  3. To improve the uptake of digital mental health technologies.

  • Programme priority Priority Axis 1

    • Innovation

  • Specific Objective: 1.2

    • Increased innovation within public service provision in remote, sparsely populated areas The project positively contributes to the programme result, addressing the “Awareness and Attitudes among health professionals towards the use of eHealth technologies”.

The project involves requirements gathering activities for the chatbot followed by content development. The project then uses the content and requirements to develop the chatbot which is followed by a trial in up to 5 NPA regions.


Work PackagesStartEnd
M: Management: ManagementOct 2019 Sep 2022
T1 Implementation: Requirement GatheringNov 2019Apr 2021
T2 Implementation: Content DevelopmentFeb 2020Dec 2021
T3 Implementation: Chatbot DevelopmentAug 2020Jun 2022
T4 Implementation: Trial, Evaluation & SustainabilityOct 2019Jun 2022
C Communication: CommunicationOct 2019Sep 2022



Project Team
P1Ulster University
P2University of Eastern Finland (UEF)
P3Norrbotten Association of Local Authorities (NORB)
P4Region Norrbotten (RN)
P5Luleå University of Technology (LTU)
P6NHS Western Isles (NHSWI)
P7Action Mental Health (AMH)
P8Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)
P9Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI)