mental health is a topic that has been worth bringing to the table and that I have been waiting for a long time to be discussed. It was like an elephant in the room, despite the stigmata and prejudices, the world in general has come a long way in this regard. So much so that technology was also dedicated to this cause and at the moment we can find many apps aimed at mental health.
Despite this, there are factors that we need to review in this regard, considering how delicate psychiatric and psychological disorders are. How effective are these apps? Are there studies that talk about it? Could they be a risk? Let’s see it.
Mental health apps versus conventional psychotherapy
In the year 2020, WHO estimated approximately 1 billion people in the world with some kind of mental disorder. However, as we mentioned before, in our days this is an issue that is on the table and we have more options to deal with them. One of them is precisely the mental health apps that are presented as an accessible alternative and that feel much more private in the face of people who do not yet feel ready to go to psychotherapy.
These are determining factors, considering that in the first place not the entire population has the possibility to pay for psychiatric and psychological medicine services. In that sense, it is much more accessible for a person to install an application on their smartphone and see how it can help them. On the other hand, mental health problems can make it impossible for us to leave the house or communicate normally with others. Due to this, many patients find greater comfort in front of their smartphones.
But beyond the gaps that mental health apps have come to fill, the question remains about their effectiveness. If we do a quick search for these types of applications, many claim to be endorsed by experts or institutions. However, the reality is that independent studies in this area are very few.
Are apps that promise to help with mental health effective?
The subject of the studies, experts or institutions that endorse many of the mental health apps that we can find are interesting. The reality is that it is a field very little studied and according to a work of the NCBI, the ones that exist generally have connections to the same apps. Based on this, the institution carried out a project Posted July 2020 to monitor a group of patients who would use 5 mental health apps.
The end of the process and the results on the effectiveness of Destressify, MoodMission, Smiling Mind, MindShift, and SuperBetter were estimated for this year. However, so far the information has not been updated regarding what was found by doctors Jamie M Marshall, Debra A Dunstan and Warren Bartik.
However, according to the opinion of the Doctor of Psychology and Bachelor of Clinical Social Work, Salt Rainbach, the ideal mental health app depends on one key factor: psychiatry and psychology practitioners always available. Work on psychiatric and psychological disorders is highly dependent on professional accompaniment. In this sense, Rainbach’s opinion is essential to have an idea of the scope of these applications.
Starting from this, the opinion of the Tanisha Ranger PhD in Psychology who has experience supporting your work on mobile applications. Dr. Ranger uses mobile apps to complement therapeutic work, seeking to keep her patients always connected with what they work in the sessions. Despite this, he also warns that they cannot be used as a replacement for traditional treatments.
Is it worth downloading and using this type of application?
As in everything that involves our health, it will always be necessary to go to a specialist in the area to obtain good results. Mental health apps are an excellent tool in different situations. For example, those who do not have the means to pay for psychotherapy or do not handle too much information about it, can approach it through these apps. Likewise, as in the case of Dr. Ranger, they can be extremely useful as a complement to therapy.
Otherwise, it is always best to go to a specialist capable of providing the necessary medical treatment and therapeutic support. This is how the Doctor Jean Otto of California when it projects that mental health apps will not replace conventional treatments in the future. His opinion is based on the fact that therapeutic work requires the vulnerability and exposure of the patient to another person and a connection of empathy to promote changes.
These reasons tell us how far we can go with apps aimed at mental health. Problems of anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders and more cannot be based solely on the action of an application designed for general cases. In that sense, it is worth leaning on these solutions, but not putting the full weight of medical and psychological processes on them.