Apps and Mental Health
Caroline Jones reviews if apps can improve mental health.
Mental health is slowly but steadily becoming one of the trending topics of our time. How could it not when studies reveal that 16% of people globally experience symptoms of depression or anxiety every week. When it comes to the relation between smartphones and mental health, the paradigm is that overuse of mobile devices contributes to mental health issues.
Could this be reversed? Can apps help improve your mental health? Is there a way for smartphones to build a good rep when it comes to mental health? Join us below as we try to find answers to these burning questions. The general rule is that a mental health app is reputable if it shows the utmost respect to you. It involves guaranteeing a certain level of confidentiality and as much protection as possible.
The Current Situation in the App Markets
iPhone and Android mobile users have access to Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Both these two app markets are flooded by apps said to soothe mental health. The apps range from those promoting relaxation to those offering actionable advice to improve mental health. Even some employers purchase subscriptions for their employees to contribute to their happiness. While it is a step forward, it might not be enough. Why? We shall discuss this later.
If you type “mental health” in your preferred market’s search box, you can see it yourself. There are dozens of apps with over 1 million downloads. The sheer number of users enjoying these apps is proof that mental health apps deliver some value. Let us see what it is.
Smartphone Apps Cannot Cure Mental Conditions
We are not the first to try to shine the light on whether apps can improve mental health or be used to treat mental conditions. Opening your favourite app and using it to treat anxiety or depression sounds convenient and practical, but only if it works.
Sadly, it does not have the effect we would like. The latest studies suggest that apps should not be used as the only means to treat mental health conditions. The current evidence suggests that people need professional’s help which often implies medications.
So, apps cannot treat mental health conditions. For instance, a meditation app is all that it is: an app providing soothing music. However, it will not fix the deep-rooted psychological issues that people struggle with daily. Thus, there needs to be more, and some apps do try to do more. For instance, some applications allow users to schedule appointments with psychology experts.
Overall, can mental health apps improve?
Apps Improve the Outcome for Patients with Mental Health Issues
Smartphones can build a better rep in their relation to mental health. A meta-analysis of the available research shows that mental health apps are helpful after all. The researchers used the apps to augment, extend, expand, and improve mental health care overall. The most exciting findings suggest that the effects of mobile phones went up by a whopping 100% when a professional’s guidance accompanied them.
It is excellent news for people suffering from mental health conditions and those who wish to use apps to improve mental health. They can be handy for helping people learn whether they need help from a therapist. Also, people waiting to get treatment can use them to alleviate some symptoms of mental health conditions.
While apps can serve as an intervention to help people improve mental health and awareness, build self-confidence, and become more aware, mindful, and present in the moment, there are still some concerns you should be aware of.
One of the biggest concerns is whether therapists available through the apps are professional and certified. Some providers have already faced such allegations. And even though most of the people will help despite their certifications, the borderline is that you get what you pay for. Typically, sessions are much cheaper via apps than at professional offices. Thus, it is an option for those that might not afford therapy face-to-face.
Exercise Caution When Using Mental Health Apps
If you want to immediately improve your mental health issues, there are a few things you should know first.
If you feel uncomfortable about apps knowing more information than they should, you can always use a VPN. A Virtual Private Network is an app that will protect the data you exchange online. Thus, all of your sessions and other private affairs get a necessary privacy boost.
You should also ensure that the app is regularly updated. The best app developers keep up to date with the best medical practices and information. Using a regularly updated app also means fewer bugs and less vulnerability to cyber-attacks. Both markets have trust tags. If you want to be extra cautious, you should only stick with the trusted app publishers.
Check whether your data will not be shared
Many apps make money by sending their users’ information to third parties. However, good mental health apps should not do this. After all, you do not want marketers to know that you are going through a rough patch in your life. Marketers should not have access to such insights as they are incredibly personal. However, there have been cases when mental health apps are criticized for performing such actions.
Thus, before choosing a mental health app, please ensure that it will not share your data with others.
Overall, should the apps be used standalone to treat mental health conditions? No. However, most of the high-rated mental health apps on the Apple and Google app markets can help you improve your mental health. Whether you want to learn relaxation techniques and alleviate anxiety symptoms or improve your capacity to be present in the here and now, there are more than a couple of apps to help you do it.
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About the Author
Caroline Jones is an enthusiastic writer, gamer, and foodie, interested in helping people and becoming a veteran in all things technical. Cybersecurity is her passion, and the fight for digital privacy is one of her favourite subjects to dig deeper into regularly.