Top five mental health apps


Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety have become more prevalent in our society, and while therapy and support groups are still a huge part of managing mental illness, clinicians have turned to mobile apps as tools for aiding their patients’ treatment. These apps can be especially helpful for teenagers and young adults suffering from mental illness due to their frequent use of technology as a means of communication.  They can also be helpful as a way for people who may be unwilling or unable to attend face-to-face therapy to get help, and they can also provide support in between sessions.

Headspace is a mindfulness meditation app, targeted to anyone who wants to learn meditation to reduce anxiety and stress and improve their attention and awareness.  This app is good for a beginner to establish a regular meditative routine. The skills taught include mindfulness and cognitive diffusion, breathing exercises, meditation practice, tips for increased relaxation, concentration.  This app may be applied to anxiety and depressive disorders, PTSD, and OCD, especially in conjunction with a health provider.  Headspace does a terrific job of describing basic concepts with a creative animated interface, presenting meditation in a user-friendly way with clear instructions, creating an online forum, supplying podcasts, normalizing mind-wandering, and illustrating main points with videos.

Self-Help Anxiety Management (SAM) is an app to help you understand what causes your anxiety, monitor your anxious thoughts and behavior over time, and manage them through self-help exercises and private reflection. This app is targeted to older teens and adults with anxiety disorders. The skills taught may help those with good insight and self-awareness. Users can record their anxiety levels and identify different triggers. The app includes 25 self-help options to help users cope with the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety. Users can create a personalized anxiety toolkit, adding in the features of the app that they find most useful for easy access. The app also has a social cloud feature that allows users to anonymously share their experiences with other SAM users.

Optimism is a family of applications that focus on self-tracking as a tool for coping with mental illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and PTSD. The app helps users detect patterns in their mood, creating a way to identify triggers and other things that affect their mental health. Users can create a customizable wellness plan to chart their coping mechanisms, and this can be updated as they come to have a deeper understanding of what they need to tackle their mental illness.

PTSD Coach is an app developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD, intended for use by veterans, military personnel, and civilians experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It provides a self-assessment tool that allows users to track symptoms over time (though it does not clinically diagnose PTSD), as well as tools for managing symptoms. Users can also store contacts for personal support, locate nearby treatment programs, and contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline quickly in emergencies. It is not recommended for PTSD sufferers who require one-to-one treatment, high-frequency direct clinical interface, or for those who have difficulty make safe decisions. It does a terrific job of education, assessing PTSD, and offering easy to understand tips to manage common PTSD symptoms, and finding additional treatment resources with providers via a search function.

Code Blue is designed to provide teenagers struggling from depression or bullying with support when they need it. Users can choose several contacts to be part of their support group. With just a few taps, the app will alert the support group that the user needs immediate help. Members of the support group can then text or call the user. The app can also share the user’s location with the support group, and members can indicate that they are on their way to see the user in person.

There are many more apps available for any situation. If you try one and don’t like it, don’t give up right away. Go online and read reviews of different apps to see whether people have found them helpful. Keep in mind that though these apps can definitely help people with their mental illness, experts believe that these apps will work best when used in conjunction with medication and/or in-person therapy.  None of these apps are intended as a treatment substitute for any mental illnesses.