Mental Health at Your Fingertips — Literally

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
August 11, 2017

Every year, mental illness afflicts some 60 million Americans.[1] Unfortunately, only 40 percent of these people will seek medical attention. [2]

That’s a somber reality. But there’s an easy way for them to get help — with little more than the push of a button.

A number of smartphone apps are now available that can help people cope with mental illness and live happier, healthier lives. These apps provide everything from self-reflection tips to breathing exercises to personalized counseling. It’s time to encourage more people to use them.

It’s easy to understand why some may not seek help for mental health conditions. Traditional therapy sessions can be pricey — sometimes over $200 per session.[3] And only about half of psychologists accept insurance.[4]

Further, many people avoid treatment to evade the stigma associated with mental health conditions.[5]

Mental health apps eliminate these obstacles.

Consider one popular app called “Headspace,” which offers daily meditation videos. Meditation is proven to help reduce anxiety and depression — and improve critical thinking.[6] Physicians often suggest meditation as an alternative treatment for certain mental illnesses.[7]

Some apps also teach valuable coping strategies. “What’s Up” gives users tools for when they’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. It also allows users to record their feelings and day-to-day activities.[8]

“TalkSpace” offers an even more personalized experience by giving users access to advice from mental health professionals right on their phone.[9]

Here at St. George’s University, we recognize the potential of technology to help patients. This year, our Educational Computing Team hosted a “Tech Day,” which focused on the use of social media, audio, and video technologies in medical education.[10] We also ensure our students develop strong communication and health informatics skills through research and community service projects.  

Access to mobile technology is crucial to meet our nation’s increasing mental health needs. St. George’s students are well-equipped to embrace new tech tools when they begin practicing on their own.












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