With reports of 40 million Americans suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders and a whopping 75% of the globe suffering depression, there is little wonder of the need to have a doctor close by- in the palm of the person’s hand.
Google and Apple app stores make it easier to download mental health apps, enabling users to carry out their own mental health solution. Just with the press and swipe of the screen a person can monitor and diagnose their own mental health and there are even apps for the mentally fit who just want some information about certain stressors they may face or how to be happy. HIPAA and other privacy protections are upheld, thankfully.
Before figuring out which apps are the best to use and why, one should understand what depression truly is(since nearly everyone is experiencing it or will experience at some point) and what goes into building mental health apps in order to make a wise decision.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a word that is sometimes cast around into an ocean but quickly drowns in each person’s own meaning of it. Depression is actually a “depressive disorder” that is common and can affect activities such as sleeping, working, eating, anything.
To be diagnosed with depression, however, one must have had these symptoms for at least two weeks.
There are also different kinds of depression: seasonal affective disorders, postpartum, psychotic depression and more.
The causes of depression are still not very clear, but with the latest research it is now known that depression is not just caused by a chemical imbalance. According to a 2019 Harvard Medical School publication, “it is more complex than that”. Life events, genetic vulnerability, and medical issues can bring about depression.
Causes of Depression
Life events can happen to anyone. Trauma, losing someone or being harmed in some way can literally affect the physiological makeup of the brain leading to depression.
Genetic vulnerability is depression affected by DNA. If one comes from a family where depression is present, more than likely the children may have susceptibility to it. There is evidence of this when studying those who are bipolar. A set of twins during a study showed that if one twin had the illness, the other would too.
Medications taken and even stress can bring on depression. Yet, the good news is a click away.
The Benefits of Mental Health Apps
A mental health app must adhere to these three areas: functionality, design and offering psychological help and education.
When deciding on functionality, the app should have self monitoring features so the user can “check in” on their own health and the app should track any changes like mood, emotion, and any triggers possibly experienced that day while giving clear solutions to the user.
Notifications and reminders are also great. Just make sure the reminders are not so annoying that it dresses you out even more.
Second, the design of the app should be clean and self explanatory.
A team of User Interface and User Experience(UI/UX)experts would take their time making sure there is less clutter on the screen.
The Mindshift app is a great example of functionality and design. It uses “slanguage” that teens may appreciate and not in a way that belittles their intelligence. The colors used evokes calmness: blues and whites and lavender, along with emojis to represent the Chillout Zone and music feature. Even more beneficial are the coping cards and journaling feature.
The final stage in developing a mental health app is the most critical: psychological.
Most of these apps have support groups and forums which are always healthy to be involved in, and live support on call if you need the care right away.
The Most Popular Depression Apps(1M+ Downloads)
Now called MindDoc is a mood tracker and includes psych courses and exercises. The mood tracker also creates a two-week assessment.
It is a great app and has free resources, but as with most apps with “in-app purchases, if a user wants to upgrade, it can be around $47.99 per year.
This app is used specifically for anxiety, depression, and stress and is big on community. It is basically an app that encourages conversations. A safe place to share ups and downs.
Their website is a great example of simplicity. Not too many buttons to click on, just conversation bubbles organized on the screen and a simple block to click on their blog. That’s it.
According to reviews, there is not a charge unless you want to remove ads, which will cost about $5.99.
Youper “empowers people to pursue happiness and can be thought of as an app for everyone regardless of mental condition, because it is available to empower one to happiness.
The app includes stress and anxiety monitoring, progress checkups, and prescribed medications can be delivered to the home monthly.
The best way to use Youper is as a tool to monitor your symptoms and enable you to have informed conversations with your own doctor.
Most features are free, but subscription is required for an emotional health plan.
Daylio journal is simply a journal. It tracks and charts your progress-and the user can make it private.
As with any app, there may be in-app purchases but it is not clear.
Sanvello is a self-care, coaching, community app. A person can learn coping skills, set goals, and yes, speak with a therapist.
The app offers a free two week trial but to unlock all features will cost $8.99 per month- and self coaching is $60 per month.
To put into perspective having an app is the new, ideal way to stay on top of your mental health. With easy access to your mood trackers, and algorithms built with the user in mind along with 24/7 support, the millions who are suffering from depression can now feel more at ease.