The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) replaced all of their helpline volunteers and workers with a chatbot named Tessa, shortly after their workers unionized.
NEDA’s helpline is a vital resource for people in crisis or recovery. Workers direct people to treatment options or connect those in crisis with the right tools to seek support. Nearly 70,000 people contacted NEDA in 2022.
In 2023, NEDA helpline workers unionized to push for better training and mental health support. Three days after their election was certified, the organization laid off its workers and announced that it would be replacing the helpline with a chatbot.
This decision left people with eating disorders without a human point of contact, and it’s a symptom of the broader push to devalue human workers by leveraging AI.
We spoke with Abbie, who worked at the NEDA helpline, as well as an AI expert, and the creator of Tessa to understand what’s going on.