Submitted by Melinda McKay, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC
In 2008, the original iOS App Store launched with 500 apps, just over a year after the first iPhone was released. In September 2021, there were approximately 2.22 million available apps on the Apple platform. Today, most of us use several apps many times a day. Apps can be helpful for so many different things, from reminders to take medication to relaxation and peer-to-peer support.
Apps can also be useful in helping us improve our mental health, yet the mental health professionals at Welia Health think it’s important to use them with some caution.
Recommendations on using apps for mental health
- Choose the apps with care. Some apps have been studied and have more evidence than others with respect to their effectiveness. Most apps are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Always check the privacy settings of an app. To keep your healthcare information private, be sure to check the privacy settings of any app you download.
- Continue to work with your healthcare providers. It’s best to use mental health apps as tools to further support your mental health care. It’s important to continue to work with your primary care provider, psychiatric mental health provider, and/or therapist while using the apps.
Apps we find to be helpful tools for mental health
Among the millions of apps available, there are a few we routinely recommend for those who may need support for different health conditions.
- Insomnia: CBT- i Coach app. This app helps to improve sleep habits. You can also learn about sleep, develop positive sleep routines, and improve your sleep environment by learning different strategies.
- Virtual Hope Box: The Virtual Hope Box app helps with crisis survival skills, including reminders of your worth and purpose. You can create a personal support box of inspirational quotes, personal videos/photos, and affirmations to help you get through a challenging time or to better manage ongoing depression.
- Medication Reminders: Taking your prescriptions as directed is critical to maintaining health and to successful treatment. The Medisafe app reminds you when to take your medications to help stay on track.
- Mood charting: Apps that help you identify triggers for low moods or negative behaviors are called “mood-charting” apps. They help you better understand how and when moods shift to see if there is a pattern. There are several apps in this category we recommend such as MoodTracker, Daylio, Mood Log, and CBT Thought Diary.
- Mindfulness/ Relaxation: There are also several apps we recommend to help with mindfulness and relaxation. They include: Stop, Breathe & Think, Insight Timer, Smiling Mind, iMindfulness, and Mindfulness Daily.
- Breathing exercises: Breathing can help you slow down your mind and the physiological signs of stress. For breathing exercises, we recommend the app Breathe2 Relax.
Please note, apps are not a substitute for medical treatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, dial 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Using Mental Health Apps Carlat Publishing