How to choose a mental health app: Of the thousands of apps, many are poor quality – but there are a few gems you can trust. Follow these steps to find them

by Margaret Emerson & John Torous: For Complete Post, Click Here…

With the ease of access to healthcare via a smartphone, it is not surprising that more and more of us are turning to apps to get assistance with our mental health. Indeed, there are many more than 10,000 apps available to pick from today, from a variety of sources – including private companies and government agencies – and millions of people around the world are seeking to manage their mental health this way. Similar trends are only likely to increase with direct-to-consumer advertisements for the apps all over social media, television and even billboards.

To better understand the circumstances that led to Mark’s ER visit, he and I explored the app together. The app certainly gave the impression that it offered psychiatric services, together with claims that you could expect symptom improvement. There was even a section on the app’s scientific rigour. Unfortunately, when Mark had sought to use the app’s more intensive ‘psychiatric services’, he learned that these promoted features that were not actually available in the app. Similarly concerning, as we reviewed the app’s privacy policy, we quickly realised that Mark had also agreed to allow the app to access his contact list, location and voice, with no ability to delete this data and no clear indication of what the company was doing, or would do, with his personal data. Needless to say, this mental health app was not as advertised, and I was relieved to see Mark make the informed decision to quickly uninstall it from his phone.

That being said, we don’t want to paint an unfairly negative picture or to put you off mental health apps entirely, as we are also still in the early stages of determining the full potential that apps have to offer. Useful apps certainly do exist, and not all will share your data. For example, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a suite of free mental health-focused apps that anyone in the world can use for free, even if you’re not a veteran. The VA works to research its apps and openly shares results that highlight how they can help augment care. For example, the VA’s COVID Coach app offers education, symptom-trackers and activities designed to help with self-care around pandemic stress. The app does not make unfounded claims and is likely a tool that many people may find helpful in augmenting their mental health.

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