Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment – Alana Bonfiglio 10/28

A report by The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment, shows how the increased accessibility of mobile devices has changed mental health treatment by creating new ways to access help, monitor health and learn about mental wellbeing. 

The report states that technology’s mental health support can be simultaneously simple and effective. For example, crisis center’s are a very easy way to get help. Apps can monitor behavior patterns, improve memory or thinking and connect users with professional care. According to the report, nowadays there are thousands of mental health apps available in iTunes and Android app stores, and the number is growing every year. 

There are several popular areas of app development for mental health purposes. Self-management apps involve the user putting in personal information to elicit feedback, such as setting up medication reminders or managing blood pressure. Apps for improving thinking skills help the user with cognitive remediation. Skill-training apps can help users learn new coping or thinking skills. Illness management and supported care apps allow users to interact with other people, such as peer support or trained health care providers. Passive symptom tracking apps utilize the sensors built into smartphones to collect data, such as movement patterns, social interactions and behavior, that may be able to help determine the user’s state of mind. Data collection apps gather data without user’s help to increase the understanding of mental health through large data collection. These apps can have significant benefits, including convenience, anonymity, an introduction to care, lower cost, service to more people, interest, 24-hour service, consistency and support. 

Despite the thousands of mental health apps available at the click of a button, there are concerns involved. NIMH states that effectiveness, for whom and for what, guidance, privacy, regulation and overselling are factors that should be focused on to address these concerns. NIMH writes that there is little regulation or information on app effectiveness available to the public, which can lead to confusion about which apps to trust. “While the apps are becoming more appealing and user-friendly, there still isn’t a lot of information on their effectiveness,” they write. Right now there are no national standards for evaluating the effectiveness of mental health apps, so NIMH recommends exercising caution. They also suggest asking health care providers for recommendations and researching apps. 

NIMH is a very reputable source. I think this report is very thorough and I applaud the institute for acknowledging the lack of regulation around health apps. While it is true that many of these app developers are going to help people, it is also true that most seek to make money. I think the potential of app-based mental health treatment is very exciting, especially with the increase in mental illness diagnoses among our generation. I especially think the anonymity aspect can help fight the stigma around mental illness and ease new patients into treatment. According to the report, NIMH awarded 404 grants totaling 445 million for technology-enhanced mental health intervention grants between FY2009 and FY2015. I think this funding could be a game changer in allowing developers to focus on the main goal of improving public health over their goal of making money.

3 thoughts on “Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment – Alana Bonfiglio 10/28

  1. I also read this article and I completely agree with your points. I too found this article very credible – specifically because they acknowledged the faults of these developing apps. With the increase of mental health issues (partially, if not, more) due to the increase in technology, it is important to extend our resources. I find it almost funny that we are attempting to fix the problem with the same thing that started it (using technology to aid with mental illnesses that may have been started due to technology).

  2. I also read this article and definitely think that apps targeted toward mental health has great potential for aiding those in need. It offers more convenience and a lower cost than, for example, in-person therapy. However, I’d like to know how certain mental health apps have become so reputable despite there not being any regulation or standards for evaluating the effectiveness these types of platforms. Mental health is such an important issue because it affects so many people today. I don’t understand why there hasn’t been standards or regulations put into effect yet. I think mental health still isn’t as prioritized as it should be.

  3. This is my first time to know that there are so many apps for mental health purposes, and I felt amazed. I liked what you pointed out in the third paragraph, which introduces these apps clearly in different functions. I have a friend who is experiencing some problems in mental health now, and I would like to read this article to see if there are some ways to help and support him.

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