Are mental health apps really worth downloading?

Are mental health apps really worth downloading?

11/07/2022

There’s no surprise that Covid-19 took a huge toll on our mental health.

In fact, a report by Mind, published in June 2020, found that more than half of adults (and over two thirds of young people) felt their mental health got worse during lockdown.

And over the course of the pandemic, there’s been an increased demand for mental health apps – starting in lockdown and moving beyond.

Digging into the specifics, the most searched-for apps were related to mindfulness and relaxation – which both rose by more than 2000%. 

Of course, when you think about mental health and wellness apps, Calm and Headspace are usually the first two names that come to mind.

However, there are also others out there designed to bring mental health benefits and wellbeing to particular groups – such as the elderly.

One example is Famileo, a paid app that started in France and is now launching in the UK. The key aim is to reduce social isolation and boost wellbeing of grandparents by connecting the generation gap in communication.

You can add memories, anecdotes and photos which are then formatted into a newspaper and posted to your elderly relatives each month.

However, with the boom of mental health apps, it’s important to ask if they really do help? And if it’s worth investing in them for our mental health – especially when paying for some of them.

Are they worth it?

According to Niels Eék, psychologist and co-founder of mental wellness platform Remente, wellness apps are beneficial because they can ‘provide help to people a lot faster’ and even have the potential to make treatments ‘more effective than what was previously possible’ – due to evolving technology such as AI.

‘One of the best things is that [mental health apps] are accessible to everyone – wherever and whenever they need them at any time, without the need for appointments or one-to-one meetings,’ Niels tells Metro.co.uk.

‘While I don’t believe that wellness apps are in any way a replacement for medical treatment, they are a tool for users to not only better their own understanding of their personal mental health and wellbeing, but to offer a way to manage mental health on a day-to-day basis.’

Get the right one

When it comes to paid mental health apps, it’s important to get the right one for you.

Jessica Brewer, a HR Strategist and leadership development coach says that ‘you need to know what you are wanting to get from them’ in order to make the most of it.

‘In many ways, paying for something does make you use it more, which helps create good habits and routines which are essential to mental wellbeing,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. 

She turned to the ever-popular Calm app to learn how to meditate and built it into her routine.

‘I have paid for Calm now for the last two years and have built meditation into my routine,’ she says.

‘It has really helped me to create the focus I’ve needed and in turn that has had a beneficial effect on my sleep and rest.’

They intergrate well into our digital lives

With the rise of digitalisation in every aspect of our lives – from finding relationships to healthcare – it’s essential to appreciate and embrace the way it is changing our lives.

‘I think the combination of real-life and digital solutions isn’t just recommended, but necessary,’ Niels tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Our lives are already so immersed in the digital world – we use step counters to see how much we move, we use apps to stay in touch with our loved ones, or keep track of our to-do lists and order our shopping.’

His own wellness platform, Remente, is part of a rapidly growing market for technology that focuses on mental health and wellbeing.

‘Tech is definitely a game-changer, as it holds the potential to provide help in a much more affordable, preventative and accessible way than was previously possible,’ he says.

‘Technology is democratising support tools, making them widely accessible, as well as being a cost-effective and efficient way of supporting the workforce in dealing with their wellbeing.’ 

Know they aren’t a replacement for professional help

At the same time, these apps ‘aren’t a replacement for therapy or coaching’ which may, at times, be necessary.

Jessica continues: ‘[Wellness apps] can’t replace that sense of community – something that can have such an impact on our mental wellbeing and is something we’ve been lacking for the past two years.’ 

‘But if someone is really struggling with their mental health, it might feel easier to download an app rather than speak to someone about the help you need.’

However, while these extremely popular apps ‘help facilitate’ improvements to help your wellbeing, it’s really important to seek professional help if you’re still finding it difficult to manage your mental health with these apps.

Whether you think mental health apps are the best thing since sliced bread or you need a bit more convincing before downloading one, it’s clear that technology – in tandem with real-life support – is playing a bigger role than ever when it comes to both our mental and physical health.

Technology is one of the best ways to help us track mental wellbeing, as it is always available, sitting in our pockets, says Niels.

He adds: ‘The role of digital is to support real-life and human interaction, not to replace it, that’s when it becomes powerful and useful.’

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