The rise of mental health apps

1st September 2019

We’re currently living in a world where, despite having everything we need that is meant to bring us closer together, as individuals we are actually feeling more lonely and depressed than ever before. 

Lots of the blame for this often comes down to spending too much time using technology – not experiencing the ‘real world’ – but more specifically, using apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. With users of social media platforms continuing to rise, the message of putting down your devices to save our mental health doesn’t seem to be getting through. Therefore, there’s been an increase in apps designed to improve our mental health. Mindfulness and mood improvement apps are flooding the app store, but do they really work? How do we turn things around and use digital media to positively impact our mental health rather than negatively?

Why are social media apps bad for our mental health?

Social media started out as a way for us to engage with friends and family, and even celebrities. But recently, Instagram was ranked the worst platform for young people’s self-esteem and mental wellbeing. Instead of chatting to friends, it’s become a place where people post photos and videos of their full and happy lives – holidaying, eating, shopping, all the things that they want others to see. This seems to have led us to a place where when we access Instagram we constantly compare ourselves to others. Instagram is full of beautiful wealthy people, but only if you make it so.

Users have the choice of which accounts they follow and the content they see. However, it goes a lot deeper than that, everything is public and real life seems to have disappeared in favour of a comparative life on social media. We may be comparing ourselves to lives that may not even be real anyway, and that’s where our mental health starts to deteriorate.

Apps like Headspace are aiming to combat mental health problems

Mindfulness apps are a relatively new concept. In complete contrast to Instagram and Youtube, apps such as Headspace encourage us to switch off, close our eyes and think about ourselves to achieve a happy state of mind. No one is pushing teeth whitening kits in your face here. Since people aren’t putting down their devices, these apps are trying a different approach. Using technology to make us feel good about ourselves and restore some normality in our lives.

How can they help improve our mood?

It’s no secret that the demand for mental health support on the NHS is lacking, which means people are looking for other options. Usually, those that are simple, accessible and informative regarding mental health. If you’re feeling depressed then you don’t really have the motivation to get up and do anything, some people even refuse help and that’s where apps can help.

Apps aren’t as intimidating as a GP surgery or real life therapy session. Apps such as Headspace draw users in by offering relaxation methods and playful mood improvement tips that draw you into a CBT style interaction. It offers help with everything from sleep problems, combating anxiety, mood lifting tips and meditation. Headspace is a great example, as it is one of the most successful mood-boosting mindfulness apps out there at the moment. It is ranked as number 7 on the app store health and fitness section. The image on the left shows its high rating of 4.8 stars with over 186K reviews.

Could mental health apps replace therapy?

Mental health apps may replace therapy for some people, and aid in their recovery along with other methods. They are good for people who maybe don’t have the money to get therapy or in the interim when people have to wait a long time for treatment on the NHS. Only a small percentage of people with mental health issues actually seek help. So apps like these open up opportunities for them to access help without the need to leave the house if they have severe anxiety. They also allow privacy and confidentiality. Apps provide a safe space for people who are too worried about what others may think or people who think doctors won’t help them. This private method allows these people to try and self-manage their problems and find answers to their questions in their own homes.

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