Mental Health: Is there an App for That?

Mental Health: Is there an App for That?

There are plenty of health and fitness apps, but not that many mental health apps. Those that exist — and there are 27 recommended by the National Health Service in the UK, and “Top Ten” lists provided by most mental health organizations in the U.S. — are often primarily tracking tools. This may be beneficial or convenient for therapists, but for those suffering from depression or other mental health issues, such an app may be just one more thing on a to-do list that’s already a burden.

Health economist Simon Leigh points out that 85% of the apps recognized by the NHS do not have any clinical trials or other evidence that they are of value, and this is even more common among mental health apps as a whole. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is collecting health professional’s reviews of relevant apps as a project to help deal with the problem.

The FDA has approved just about 100 medical apps out of the hundred thousand or more that are available, and it has decided not to regulate those that “help patients with diag­nosed psy­chi­atric con­di­tions (e.g., post-traumatic stress dis­or­der (PTSD), depres­sion, anx­i­ety, obses­sive com­pul­sive dis­or­der) main­tain their behav­ioral cop­ing skills by pro­vid­ing a ‘Skill of the Day’ behav­ioral tech­nique or audio mes­sages that the user can access when expe­ri­enc­ing increased anxiety.”

So there are not many mental health apps compared with the number for physical health, and most of the apps that are available don’t have solid evidence to show that they work — and the FDA has bowed out of the vetting process. Still, most are based on cognitive behavioral therapy or other established methods.They may offer a convenient alternative to pencil and paper journaling or other low-tech methods your therapist has advised.

Here are some to try out:

Optimism is designed to help users track their moods and develop strategies for coping with depression and bipolar disorder. Reviews say it shows patterns and correlations, and helps them connect their moods with factors like sleep and exercise as well as medications and other strategies.

Pacifica combines mood tracking with relaxation techniques, daily anti-anxiety steps, voice journaling, and health goal tracking. A friendly user interface and a high level of customizability make this a good way to keep up with daily techniques between visits with a counselor.

What’sMyM3 is a three minute confidential evaluation that lets users see whether they suffer from PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more — and tells them how much they’re suffering, too. Users can store their evaluation results and track improvement over time.

Operation Reach Out provides encouraging videos and quick access to suicide crisis hotlines for people who have suicidal thoughts. There are also resources for people who care for those with suicidal thoughts. The videos remind users that there are treatment options.

Big White Wall is a community-based app that lets people share their concerns and support one another. The concept is a 24/7 anonymous opportunity to share concerns. An impressive 90% of users say that they find it helpful.

Just remember that these apps are not intended to be a replacement for therapy. Contact us for an appointment.