Technology has created new opportunities in mental health support. Mental Health applications (app) have the potential to play a vital part in mental health care. The growth of mental health mobile apps has been exponential. There are a great number of mental health apps available in iTunes and Android app stores, and the number is growing every year. Mobile devices are giving the community, and mental health practitioners, new methods to obtain help, monitor progress, and increase understanding of mental health well-being.
According to an article published by the Scientific American Magazine, this burgeoning industry may meet an important need since estimates suggest that about 29% of people will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that many of those people are not getting the treatment they need. Mobile health apps could help to fill the gap (see ‘Mobilizing mental health’). In other words mental health apps can be effective in making therapy more accessible, efficient, and portable. Nonetheless, there are also other adverse aspects of using these apps to be taken into consideration.
The Pros and Cons of Mental Health Apps
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) also states that it is important to look at the advantages and disadvantages of expanding mental health treatment and research into a mobile world. Mental health practitioners consider that technology has a lot of potential for clients and clinicians alike. In the NIMH publication “Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment”, the following advantages of mobile care are discussed:
- Convenience:Treatment can take place anytime and anywhere.
- Anonymity:Clients can seek treatment options without involving other people.
- An introduction to care: Technology may be a good first step for those who have avoided mental health care in the past.
- Lower cost: Some apps are free or cost less than traditional care.
- Service to more people: Technology can help mental health providers offer treatment to people in remote areas or to many people in times of sudden need.
- Interest: technologies might be more appealing than traditional treatment methods, which may encourage clients to continue therapy.
- 24-hour service: Technology can provide round-the-clock monitoring or intervention support.
- Support: Technology can complement traditional therapy by extending an in-person session, reinforcing new skills, and providing support and monitoring.
These new mental health apps and technology provide great advantages but also raises a number of potential risks. Focus on possible problems will be an necessary aspect of assuring that new apps provide benefits without causing negative outcomes. As stated by NIMH the biggest concern with these new interventions is obtaining scientific evidence that they work and that they work as well as traditional methods.
Popular Mental Health Mobile Apps
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reviewed and presented a list of mental health app available for the community. The organization clearly specified that all volunteer reviewers are mental health professionals with degrees in psychology, medicine, social work, and counseling not involved in the development or marketing of mobile apps.
- Anxiety Reliever: Is an app that enables users to track anxiety symptoms and provides relaxation exercises. Anxiety Reliever consists of calming audio recordings, helpful guides, an insightful tracker, breathing tool and supportive messages.
- AnxietyCoach: Is a self-help app that addresses fears and worries using Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies. In CBT people increase their confidence by gradually confronting situations that they have avoided out of fear.
- Breathe2Relax: Designed to teach breathing techniques to manage stress. The skills taught may be applied to those with anxiety disorders, stress, and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Happify: Is a self-guided app that aims to increase positive emotions through exercises and games supported by positive psychology and mindfulness
- Headspace: Targeted to anyone who wants to learn meditation to reduce anxiety and stress and improve their attention and awareness.
- MoodKit: This app will help individuals with depression, anxiety disorders, and anger management The skills taught include self-monitoring, identifying and changing unhealthy thought patterns, and engaging in mood-enhancing activities.
- MoodTools: It provides psycho education about risk factors and psychosocial approaches to treatment, a depression symptom questionnaire, a thought diary, a suicide safety plan, and videos such as meditation guides.
- Panic Relief: Targeted to help individuals with panic disorder access easy-to-use coping tools to better manage and move through panic attacks.
- T2 Mood Tracker: Helps individuals track their emotional states and how they change over time for personal insight and accurate reporting to a mental health professional.
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