How Effective are Mental Health Apps? - Dream Health

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Sunday 1 November 2015

How Effective are Mental Health Apps?


Mental Health Apps – Unverified/Ineffective

According to latest study, it has been reported that several of the app which have been invented for mental health victims, inclusive of those endorsed by the NHS seem to be clinically unverified and possibly ineffective.

Research, published in the journal Evidence Based Mental Health, a team at the University of Liverpool observed that several mental health apps as well as online programmes lacked an underlying evidence base, lack of scientific integrity as well as limited clinical effectiveness. Study indicated that several mental health app led to over reliance and concern with regards to self-diagnosis.

Co-author of the study, Simon Leigh debates that the apps should be well informed, scientifically reliable, peer reviewed and evidence based. He informed Wired that it is a real big problem. Therate, at which apps come out, would be going to outweigh the rate at which they can be evaluated. Evaluation tends to take time and one has to design a pilot study as well as a retrospective observational study, randomise patients and these apps can be knocked up in a matter of days.

Apps Famous – With Increased Demand/Reduced Resources

These mental health apps have become famous when psychological services have come up with increased demand and reduced resources. Appointments to community mental health teams and crisis services had reduced by 15% in spite of a loss of about 200 full time mental health physicians and 3600 nurses. Many have been faced waiting list resulting in turning to alternative sources for support like apps.

George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences had launched a £650,000 fund for the development of mental health apps and a web based mental health service is scheduled in London. He has stated that if one is on a waiting list and spends money on an app then nothing happens, it can make you feel like `well’, which he had tried and nothing worked.

He further added that if one goes through the process of downloading and using an app and there are no benefits, it could compound your anxiety with regards to the mental health problem. However, apps which tend to be really good could play a great role with regards to waiting list.

Apps Beneficial but Further Research Essential

Moreover they can also act as triage for less serious mental health issues and could be the ideal remedy in some cases. Apps could be beneficial but it is essential to ensure that with wider usage one should also invest in further research to make sure that they are healthy. Jen Hyatt, CEO of Big White Wall, an online community for those facing mental health problems is passionate to what she calls the transformative role of mental health apps.

She informs that they can provide access to services from the comfort of home and several people find it difficult to gain access due to geography due to mental ill health and physical disability. It was also found that in 50% of the cases which did not get a GP, they were unable to guide mental health problems effectively.

The four NHS apps found tobe clinically effective were Big White Wall, Moodscope,, as self-tracking and peer support network, Happyhealthy, a mindfulness app and WorkGuru which is an occupational stress management programme.

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