Sorting Through the Noise of Mental Health Apps

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Sherry Pagoto offers guidance on how to navigate the thicket of 10,000 (and counting) mental health apps available online.

Groceries, fitness, banking – there’s an app for just about everything nowadays, including mental health.

Currently, there are more than 10,000 mental health and wellness apps available in the app store. And that number just keeps on growing. But these apps are largely unregulated, making it difficult for consumers to know what might offer them the greatest benefit.

Sherry Pagoto, a clinical psychologist from the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, sheds light on the differences between apps, what people should look for before they download, and when it’s time to seek professional help.

Sherry Pagoto: Since the research can’t keep pace with app development at this volume, we don’t have studies on all of them. But there are some things you can do to be an informed consumer. First, look at the app’s ratings – see what current users are saying about it before you download. Second, talk with your healthcare providers. If you have a therapist or primary care physician, ask them for recommendations for apps that their patients use or that they may even use themselves. Also, online communities can be a great place to get user feedback to narrow down your search. Last, consider doing what I call “me-search.” Download an app you think might help you, try it for a bit, and see how it makes you feel. If it’s not working, switch to something else.

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