How effective are mental health apps?

You may have seen our latest feature about Google’s questionnaire that seeks to help those with depression. While this questionnaire has in fact been clinically validated, there are many apps out there that have not. These apps could in fact be more of a hinderance than a help to those who seek advice on mental health.

The positives

Mental health apps do have many positive attributes and can help those who desperately need advice. They are easily accessible and therefore reach those who may not have considered seeking aid before. At a time where mental health therapists have seen a huge increase in demand and a large decrease in resources, mental health apps can be a way of getting advice from the comfort of your own home whilst avoiding long waiting lists that often come with one to one therapy.

For those who have more minor cases of mental health difficulties, mental health apps can be a fantastic way of improving your state of mind. Some apps have in fact been clinically approved, such as Big White Wall, Moodscope and WorkGuru. As these apps have been clinically tested they are proven to be extremely helpful for those who need help.

The negatives

A vast array of apps that are available to users are clinically unproven and therefore potentially ineffective to those who use them.This can cause problems because if people try an app and it doesn’t work, they may just accept that they have tried and failed and therefore give up asking for advice. This could potentially lead to more problems.

It is also important to be aware that there are no quick fixes to mental health. If an app tells you that it can cure your depression in two weeks, many may feel like they have failed if this outcome does not materialise. Overcoming mental health issues is a journey that takes some time.

What to look out for

In order to find those apps that are useful, there are a few things to look out for. If there is a contact number of a medical practitioner in the app, then you can almost guarantee that is has been medically approved because it has therefore been backed by a medical professional.

You should also look at the information that the app provides and judge whether or not you think it is robust. See if the information can prove to you that downloading this app will be worthwhile, perhaps if they provide patient statistics or patient numbers.

Finally, look and see if they have an element of care for their users. If they advise you to contact a medical professional or a charity if the app is not working for you, they are probably looking after your best interest and not just after your money!

There has been a call for more regulation when it comes to mental health apps. App developers need to remember that it is people’s health they are dealing with. With any luck in the next few years we will see more and more become clinically validated and the ones with no medical backing will hopefully disappear.

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