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Mental health services in the new technology-driven world offer so many options. Many of these options are accessible via intuitive apps that are designed to streamline the mental health journey and take most of the guesswork out of finding the expert attention. Most of these apps allow to access the features at any time, search for therapists and treatments while remaining anonymous, and offer a number of ways to stay engaged, like daily reminders, feelings trackers, and abundant learning material.
Of course, these mental health mobile apps are not meant to supplement a licensed therapist still, they can be considered great tools to help manage mental health concerns and treatments. Mental Health Mobile Apps represent a unique opportunity to expand the availability and quality of mental health treatment. The usage of mental health care apps that focuses mainly on improving mental health care has rapidly increased over the past few years.
Adequacy of Mental Health Mobile Apps for Psychological Treatment
Mental health mobile apps target a broad range of psychological disorders and vary in design and functionality. Mental health care apps are broadly classified into six categories based on functionality: self-management, skills-training, cognition improvement, symptom tracking, social support, and passive data collection. Mental health apps span all stages of clinical care provision, including immediate crisis intervention, prevention, diagnosis, primary treatment, supplement to in-person therapy, and post-treatment condition management. Mobile apps are a good choice for psychological treatment delivery compared to other platforms due to (I) ease of habit, (II) low effort expectancy, and (III) high hedonic motivation.
Several High-efficacy Characteristics of Mobile Apps
It is important to acknowledge the challenges of using apps for mental health treatment. To be effective and address these challenges, mental health apps are evidence-based and carefully designed. Some of the characteristics for high-efficacy mental health mobile apps include High patient engagement (real-time, gamified interactions), Simple user interface (UI) and experience (Apps are designed to generate a low cognitive load), Transdiagnostic capabilities (reduction in interaction with multiple apps for comorbid disorders), Self-monitoring features (periodically monitoring thoughts, behaviours, actions, increase ESA). Mental health apps act as cost-effective and scalable solutions to address the mental health treatment gap. The ubiquity of smartphones is another well-poised factor to address the mental health providers shortage.
Mental Health App Market
According to DelveInsight analysis, worldwide installations for top Mobile Wellness (mental health) Apps are likely to increase by almost 42 per cent in 2021 when compared to about 730 million installs in 2019. Also, top Mental Health Mobile Apps are forecasted to cross 1 billion worldwide installs in 2021.
As per DelveInsight analysis, the world’s most used 10 English-language Mental Health Mobile Apps in April generated 2 million more downloads compared to January as countries across the globe begin lifting lockdown restrictions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. These mental health support apps include names like Calm positioning at No. 1 with the most downloads followed by Headspace and Meditopia.
The major players in the Mental Health Mobile Apps market include CVS Health, 7 cups of Tea, Aurora Health Care, Talkspace Network, Addicaid, Calm, NOCD Inc, Sanvello, Headspace Inc, Happify Inc, and many others. With the government realizing the importance of digital technology across the globe, the chances of adopting mental health apps by healthcare professionals as well as patients are anticipated to reach a much higher extent.
There are currently over 300,000 health applications in the mobile app stores worldwide, with the mental health segment accounting for the largest growth in the market. The number of patients suffering from mental illnesses increases due to the increase in geriatric populations and stressful working hours, the need for quicker healthcare is required. Digital healthcare tools address this issue by offering several apps to scale up the treatment and decrease the cost of treatment for patients. The number of smartphone users worldwide has surpassed 3 billion, with several hundred million more expected in the coming years. These trends have shown an upsurge in clinical apps research in major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorders, schizophrenia, and others.
Mental Health Mobile apps Usage in Different Diseases
Many times depression treatment options do not result in complete alleviation of symptoms, and often fail to address post-treatment subclinical or residual depression symptoms. Mental health mobile apps that use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mood monitoring, mindfulness training and cognitive skills training to treat observed depressive symptoms are gaining much momentum. Smartphone-based therapies are expected to yield the greatest benefits for individuals experiencing mild to moderate, rather than those with major depression. Mental Health Apps for Depression include Daylio Journal, Youper, What’s Up, Happify, Relieve Depression Hypnosis and many more.
It is observed through clinical evidence that relaxation training, mindfulness, CBT, can reduce anxiety symptoms upto a good extent, but access to these interventions is limited by cost and availability. Whereas using mental health mobile apps to deliver these interventions has garnered much attention as a supplement to in-person therapy and a mechanism to treat sub-clinical anxiety conditions that may lie below the threshold for anxiety disorder treatment. In addition, anxiety-pivoting mental health care apps delivered the greatest reductions in anxiety symptoms when paired with face-to-face or internet-based therapies. In fact, replacing outpatient patient-therapist sessions with a mobile app resulted in no significant loss of treatment efficacy. Mental Health support apps in anxiety include Sanvello, Moodpath, Talklife, and several others.
Antipsychotic medications can relieve schizophrenic hallucinations, delusions, and disorganization, but fail to address its behavioural symptoms. Though psychosocial interventions (e.g., social skills training, cognitive training, and education on illness management) can alleviate behavioural symptoms, these interventions are rarely integrated into clinical treatment due to limited funding and adequately trained staff. Apps to improve mental health may present an opportunity to deliver these services directly to patients, especially given evidence of little difference between how schizophrenic patients and healthy controls use technology. Mental health care apps for Schizophrenia include FOCUS, PRIME, and others.
Bipolar Disorder is a kind of mental illness marked by episodes of depression and elevated mood. Typical treatment includes medication, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments, which can include building habits around mood management and stress reduction. But with the availability of phone apps for mental health, Bipolar Disorder patients get a chance to track, understand, and control their mood a bit better, in order to live a healthier and more balanced life. Mental health mobile apps for Bipolar Disorder that can track daily highs and lows, depressive and psychotic symptoms as well as irritability includes Medisafe, MoodLog, eMoods, Mental Disorders, and many others.
Future of Mental Health Care Apps
A few years back researchers were successful in proving that mental health support apps are found to improve both the monitoring and management of mental health conditions. Several factors such as ease in usage, increase engagement in treatment plans and making monitoring symptoms easier are relevant to the users. The very premise of Mental health mobile apps is to improve people’s overall wellbeing. Apps that deal with mental health have significant potential to deliver high-efficacy mental health interventions. Given the global shortage of psychiatrists and the lack of mental health care access in rural regions, apps have emerged as a viable tool to bridge the mental health treatment gap.
Mental health apps are tools that can be accessed through smartphones or mobile device that focus on improving different aspects of mental health and well-being. These applications focus on a range of areas related to wellness including relaxation, sleep and stress management.
Mental health apps have a range of potential benefits that make them appealing to many people. Some key benefits include Accessibility, Anonymity, Convenience, and Engagement.
One important feature that many mental health apps offer is the ability to monitor anxiety. Such apps may offer informational resources to assist in identifying times when there is a feeling of anxiousness, and then have a quick way to record mood and the events that preceded those feelings of anxiety.
Moods can fluctuate considerably, but mental health apps allow users to track daily changes in their moods quickly and efficiently. Perhaps most helpfully, such tools often incorporate journaling tools that also allow users to keep track of the events, situations, or thoughts that played a role in the onset of a specific mood.