Making mental health a priority is easier said than done for many. From stigma surrounding mental illness to lack of affordable and accessible care, there are often multiple health care hurdles to overcome for people to get the help they need. However, with resources like apps for self-care, technology is helping to make mental health care more accessible for everyone.
In addition to the fact that mental health is equally as important physical health, the number of people who experience mental illness is reason alone we need to prioritize accessible mental health care. A recent study found that more than 80 percent of people will experience at least one episode of mental illness in their lifetime. Despite this statistic, mental health is still heavily stigmatized in our society. This stigmatization of mental illness has serious consequences, as studies have found that mental health stigma prevents people from seeking help. Those initial steps of knowing who to ask for help as well as how to ask can be difficult. Thankfully, technology is helping people take those first steps.
Lower cost, anonymity, and 24-hour service are all benefits of technology-based mental health care, as cited by the National Institute of Mental Health. Health care apps and online services also have an innate degree of consistency; they can offer the same level of treatment to every user. This is especially crucial for minority populations, people who are LGBTQ, and other communities who disproportionately experience mental health conditions but may not have access to safe, reliable care.
It’s important to note the shortcomings of technology-based mental health care, like the lack of research surrounding its effectiveness and its regulation. Essentially, every app and online services isn't a substitute for speaking to a doctor. However, if you’re looking to start making your mental health a priority, here are seven ways technology might help.
1. Mood Tracking Apps
One of the initial benefits to mood tracking is simply being more aware of how you’re feeling on a regular basis. Apps like iMoodJournal or Clue, which is also a period-tracking app, make mood tracking easier and more manageable. They can also help you see if there are any noticeable patterns to your moods, like if depressive moods seem to be linked to certain parts of your menstrual cycle.
2. Stress Management Apps
From work stress to news cycle stress, there are lots of little parts of our daily lives that can add up and take a toll on our mental health. Additionally, the effects of stress can manifest in both physical and psychological ways, like sleeplessness or heightened anxiety. However, apps like Pacifica and What’s Up? can make managing stress easier. The What’s Up? app, for example, gives you different stress coping techniques, like activities to get grounded or prompts to help promote positive thinking.
3. Anxiety Management Apps
If you’re looking for an accessible way to help manage anxiety, there are plenty of apps that can bring a little relief right to your phone. Breathe2Relax focuses on breathing exercises for when you’re feeling anxious. The Self-help for Anxiety Management app gives you tools for managing your anxiety, as the name suggests, as well as tools for tracking your anxiety levels. Don't want to download a new app? Save the above guided breathing gif for some momentary anxiety relief.
4. Diagnostic Testing
What’s My M3? is an app that gives you a checklist for possible mood disorders and anxiety symptoms. It’s recommended by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America as a way “to help you and your doctor understand if you have a treatable mood disorder.” The app is a multidimensional screening tool that looks specifically for symptoms of major depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders and PTSD. While not a substitute for a doctor’s diagnosis, What’s My M3? can help give people the right language when they’re seeking help from a medical professional.
5. PTSD Management Apps
An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. That translates to about 5.2 million adults who experience PTSD every year. Apps like PTSD Coach are recommended by the National Center for PTSD and provide users tools with tracking and managing their symptoms, as well as links to additional resources if they need more direct and in depth support.
6. Online, Remote Therapy
Travel, time, and finances can be big barriers when trying to seek mental health care. With online therapy, like the kind provided through Talkspace, people can get individualized therapy wherever they are. When you download the Talkspace app and select the plan that’s right for you, you’ll have access to over 1000 licensed therapists and be matched with one that’s best for your needs. In addition to individual therapy, Talkspace also provides couples therapy as well as LGBT-friendly therapy.
7. Online Crisis Helplines
In addition to 24/7 helplines to call, organizations like The Trevor Project have online chat helplines for those who want a little more anonymity when seeking help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has an online crisis chat service available 24/7. This added level of anonymity is significant when it comes to health care access and services that could save a life.