We live in a world where one in every four people will experience mental illness in their lifetime. While there are several therapies today that could make living with mental illness a lot easier, access to them may be limited because of – proximity of resources, the cost, or the stigma associated with mental ill health that causes many people to avoid seeking help for fear of a loss of respect or status.
As a result, many people believe that it’s brilliant we at least have easy access to mental health apps. But are these effective and trustworthy? Are they even worth trying? Today, there are more than 1,500 mental health apps, but there is very little information available about which can help and which might even hinder recovery.
Research published in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health by a team at the University of Liverpool found that many mental health apps and online programs lack “an underlying evidence base, a lack of scientific credibility and limited clinical effectiveness”. The study also suggests that many mental health apps can lead to over-reliance and anxiety around self-diagnosis.
Simon Leigh, the co-author of the study, argues that apps should be “well-informed, scientifically credible, peer reviewed and evidence-based“.
“If you go through the process of downloading and using an app and there are no benefits, it can compound your anxiety about your mental health problems” – Simon Leigh, University of Liverpool
Studies have found that the majority of mental health apps are based on flimsy science if any at all.
Yet, some are more popular than others. For example, WhatsMyM3, iSleepEasy and Mood 24/7 can help you track your mood and create a better sleep routine. Crisis Text Line is a 24-hour texting hotline provides real-time emotional support for young adults and Positive Activity Jackpot combines a professional behavioral health therapy for depression called pleasant event scheduling (PES) with activities available in the user’s location, mapped with GPS. Live OCD Free has tools to help you relax as you’re practicing.
You can set reminders to practice, it keeps track of your progress, and you can set it to give you rewards for meeting the goals you set.
All these apps, when used correctly, can be helpful to manage mental illness. But trusting an app to diagnose your mental illness or become the sole solution and cure? That’s just wishful thinking.
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