Mental health apps have exploded onto the scene over the past decade. Millions of people around the world are now using them. But they come with risks. What should you pay attention to before downloading?
The UK leads Europe in the use of technology in healthcare, according to new research from the University of Manchester and Oxford College. In his latest report, entitled “The future is now: how technology can transform healthcare in England‘ the team found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of patients said they were interested in digital solutions, such as computer-assisted decision-making or telemedicine, to improve their care.
The growth of the mental health industry has serious implications: app developers keep making apps that treat disorders; They also make money off consumers who may be drinking dangerously early or online predators preying on children. This trend needs to be studied closely before the industry deteriorates.
Growth of the psychiatric industry and privacy concerns
Mental health apps are the latest way to raise awareness and gain recognition for a personal struggle. Mental health has grown into a big industry; In 2016, the financial market was valued at $100 billion in the United States alone. This is expected to grow to well over $150 billion by 2020. With numbers like these, it’s no wonder app developers and entrepreneurs alike are doing their best to ride the wave.
However, with this growth comes some serious privacy concerns. Many of these apps do not share information about how they use user data or their terms for sharing user information with third parties, leaving millions of Americans at risk of identity theft and other forms of fraud.
A simple search for the most popular free apps on the Google Play Store yields many results for mental health “helper” apps. Among those found are AnxietyHelper, DepressionHelper, PanicHelper, and Social AnxietyHelper. The most popular of these apps have more than 10 million downloads and over 5 million reviews. Despite their popularity in app stores, they are subject to little regulation by the FDA or FTC – the government agencies that regulate medical treatments (including apps). This is worrying as many people fail to realize whether or not an app is a legitimate source of treatment or help.
The best mental health apps
From a consumer protection perspective, the best mental health apps have some of the following characteristics:
* They are FDA regulated or certified.
* They disclose that they monitor the patient for potentially harmful behavior.
* They disclose what information is tracked and how it is used.
Here are some of the best mental health apps:
mood kit: MoodKit is a great app for tracking your mood and symptoms. It was developed by Michael Knable and the app has won numerous awards. This application is free with no additional in-app purchases or fees. It is available on the Apple Store, Google Play Store and Microsoft App Store.
Mood: Moodfit is a mood tracking app that has helped millions. The app tracks users’ moods, symptoms, and behaviors. It does this without a web portal or ongoing subscription fees. Many in-app purchases are available for “premium” features, but there are no charges for using Moodfit other than the cost of data transfer over cellular networks (free with an unlimited data plan).
Conversation area: Talkspace is a mobile app designed to help with depression and mental health. This is one of the most successful mental health apps in the United States. Talkspace has been available since 2011 and has been used millions of times. The free version lets users text their therapist, but they can upgrade to premium to get 24/7 access to their own therapist and even meet other users in the app.
headspace: Headspace remains one of the best mental health apps you can find. It is a free mental training app that helps with anxiety, stress, depression and sleep disorders. Developed by neuroscientist Andy Puddicombe, this app uses proven meditation techniques like mindfulness, body scanning, and heart rate variability to improve mood.
todoist: This app is an effective and convenient way to keep track of your schedule. The app can be downloaded from the iOS, Android and Windows Phone stores. Unlike many other mental health apps that involve a constant need for management between therapist and client, Todoist often functions as a therapeutic tool and productivity device, allowing users to complete tasks at work or school and monitor their progress.
Mental health apps and the industry won’t slow down anytime soon because the number of mental health patients isn’t increasing. However, people must be aware of their responsibilities while using the apps. Additionally, consumers should be aware of the potential for privacy and regulatory issues related to mental health apps.