"There's an app for that." It seems that there is an app for almost everything these days. While listening to your favorite podcast or song on Spotify, you may hear ads for apps that can help you improve your sanity. They promise that you can get help "at your leisure, at your own pace, and at an affordable price". You may even hear lines like "Licensed counselors who specialize in topics like depression, stress, and self-esteem …". But how do you tell the difference between apps that are helpful or that take advantage of the people who are looking for and need help?
Half of Americans will seek mental health help at some point
There is certainly a need for the many apps that offer help with mental health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children diagnosed with anxiety or depression increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2012. Half of all Americans will at some point be in their lives some form of diagnosed mental illness ranging from depression and anxiety to eating disorders or schizophrenia. Treating mental illness is not always cheap, however. According to GoodTherapy, an appointment with a therapist can range from $ 65 an hour to $ 250 or more. Apps may offer cheaper and more convenient alternatives, but they are also largely unregulated.
Thousands of apps focus on mental health
Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston published a study in Nature magazine describing an online assessment tool that people can use to rate mental health apps before they spend their money. "The need for accessible psychiatric care is more pressing than ever," the study authors wrote. "In 2016, there were more than a billion people worldwide with mental illness, and in 2020, depression will be recognized by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of disability worldwide." The paper cites research from the American Medical Association's journal, Psychiatry, which reports that 350,000 health apps are available and 10,000 focus on mental health. "
How can a person with 10,000 and more apps per day choose the right one? Using guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association, researchers developed a tool that allows users to filter available apps to find one that suits their needs, or by asking questions to determine an app that is best for them.
This is not a ranking app and there will not be a "best" mental health app. "We don't evaluate questions or create summary ratings, but let the end user assess what is important and what suits them well," the authors say. "Ultimately, we designed the model to be self-supporting and fully functional for an individual clinician or patient." In other words, what one patient thinks is important in one app may not work for another.
Questions include basic things like the user's platform, as well as price and privacy. Further questions narrow down the apps by asking what type of app the user is looking for, e.g. B. mediation, mindfulness or journaling. The tool then generates a list and the user can view the apps' ratings and features.
"Ultimately, the database provides a public and interactive approach to data collection to create transparency, generate discussion, and provide individuals and their clinicians with the information to make the best choices about using clinically meaningful apps," said the Authors.