Mental Health Apps: Can technology improve psychological wellbeing?

Mental illness goes unreported and untreated so often that it’s hard to say exactly how many Americans struggle with their mental health. Researchers say psychological distress is on the rise, and the suicide rate recently reached an almost 30-year high. Like just about everything else in our lives, technology is becoming part of the way we deal with mental health issues.  Are mental health apps and social media a new way to promote psychological wellbeing? Or part of the problem in an increasingly detached society?

Social Media and Mental Health

Most of us use social media to engage with friends, get news, and share photos. All of those seem to be positive things, but social media use is often linked to poor mental health.

·         Social media can negatively affects mental health through poor sleep quality, body image issues, and feelings of inadequacy.

·         Young adults who use more social media platforms have greater risks of depression and anxiety.

·         A UK report from early 2017 identified Instagram as the worst social media platform for young people’s mental health, associating the site with anxiety, depression, and bullying.

·         On a positive note, young adults in remote communities can use social media to connect with peers and find support from people they couldn’t otherwise connect with.

Mental Health Apps

Mental healthcare has long been associated with doctors and therapists offices. You still need to see a doctor in person for diagnosis and prescriptions. But apps that help people cope with depression and anxiety are a growing industry.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) aims to change the patterns of thinking that influence behaviour. It’s one of the standard methods of treating anxiety and other forms of mental illness, and can be a helpful tool for anyone dealing with stress.

Apps use activities and games to help teach CBT concepts like setting goals and identifying thought errors. Some platforms even assign coaches who can offer advice and help apply CBT techniques in specific real-life situations.

Online Therapy

A more involved approach to mental health technology, therapy apps provide a way to connect with licensed therapists. New patients may complete a questionnaire or introductory chat before being placed with a dedicated therapist.

Most online therapy apps work through text, with the possibility for live chats or video calls scheduled in advance. If you’re anxious about initiating in-person therapy or live in a remote location, online therapy apps open up the possibility of seeking help for people who were otherwise unable to.  

Support Groups

Speaking to a doctor or trained therapist is necessary for some mental health issues. But peer support offers its own distinct benefits. This kind of therapy isn’t for everyone, but many find that group dynamics provide important social connection and a sense of hope in speaking to people with similar mental health challenges.

Groups run through chat rooms and social media platforms have been popular for years, but smart phone technology is allowing people to connect in more interactive ways. Support group apps facilitate real-time conversations between users, while some video-based programs even allow the option of speaking face-to-face with other users.

YouTube

YouTube’s open structure creates vast possibilities for use, and young people especially are turning to YouTube for informal types of therapy.

ASMR videos that feature soothing sounds and personal attention are an increasingly popular form of YouTube therapy, providing relaxation to those suffering with insomnia, anxiety, or PTSD.

Confessional videos are another popular YouTube genre, with popular personalities and lesser-known users detailing personal experiences with issues like addiction, anxiety and depression. By speaking openly on a public platform, these confessionals may help erase some of the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Happiness and Self-Care

Recent focus on mental health issues is popularizing the idea of performing self-care to maintain personal wellbeing. Whether you’re stressed at work or dealing with a diagnosed mental illness, self-care allows you time to focus on what makes you feel good.

There are tons of apps dedicated to self-care. Popular workout apps that motivate and track progress definitely fall under this category, as do apps that help with meditation, sleep tracking, and promoting positive thinking.

Self-care apps definitely can’t replace therapy for more serious mental health concerns, but they serve as a nice adjunct to traditional therapy and can help anyone who feels too overwhelmed to make themselves a priority.

Is digital always better?

Online therapy and mental health apps obviously win points for convenience, but there are ways they fall short of traditional therapy.

·         Loss of non-verbal cues – Even the most experienced therapist can’t decipher tone or body language over a text conversation. This makes therapy lose some of its nuance.

·         Lack of accountability – Without a face-to-face connection, it’s easier for patients to quit abruptly or not take therapy seriously.

·         Slow – Text-based chats that aren’t live take much longer than in-person conversations.

·         Insurance – Even if you’re on a plan that covers traditional therapy, coverage may not extend to online mental healthcare.

·         Safety – Apps can make it more difficult for therapists to report patients who may harm themselves or others.

·         Confidentiality – Even on platforms where a patient is anonymous to their therapist, most apps still collect personal information that could be leaked or hacked.

 

Mental health apps and technology can be a great way to deal with issues like moderate social anxiety or to keep up with therapy during travel. But for people with serious mental illness or suicidal thoughts, technology isn’t ready to take the place of in-person meetings with doctors and therapists. If your mental health plan involves taking medication like Abilify, CanadaMedStop.com offers prescription services at significantly reduced prices. Click here to view prices and begin the easy online ordering process today.

DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.