When you think of mental health, a therapist, pills, or one of those pharmaceutical ads comes to mind. Most people struggle with their mental health, and in recent years technology has advanced enough to allow for more readily accessible treatment options. People have higher-quality technology resulting in the demand for numerous apps enabling thousands of people to get much-needed help. There are support groups online, free and paid apps and 100% virtual therapists. The Practitioner Points section of an article published by the British Psychological Society in their journal Psychology and Psychotherapy states, “Digital platforms allow people to self-monitor and self-manage in a way that face-to-face/paper-based assessment methods have up until now not allowed.” This revolution in healthcare was happening even before the pandemic in 2020, now in 2022 though it has increased substantially. According to a study published in December 2021, there was a “63-fold increase… The ASPE report found that the share of Medicare visits conducted through telehealth in 2020 increased 63-fold, from approximately 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million”. That’s just Medicare which does not include the usage of Facebook support groups. A quick search for “support group” in my Facebook search bar yielded over 100 options. Typing in “support network” likewise presented countless groups. There was no clear way to find accurate data on how many groups were private vs. public. Most groups are private but not all, and those who don’t wish to partake in an online group are easily able to use an app instead.
Apps began flooding the market once smartphones were introduced and landed in everyone’s hands. Per VitroSoftware’s article published in 2018, “Since the development of the first mental health app circa 2010, around 10,000 depression and anxiety-related self-help apps have been introduced to the market.” Due to the demand for these apps, some are willing to pay for the full benefits. Deloitte Insights predicted, “…global spending on mobile mental health applications will reach close to $500 million in 2022. That’s assuming an annual growth rate of 20%—a conservative figure, considering the 32% growth these apps enjoyed, from $203 million to $269 million, from the first 10 months of 2019 to the same period in 2020.” Most of these apps are low-cost for the most part. So the incredible increase in profit despite the low costs shows how many people are in great need of a tool that works well for them. These same people possibly did not have access to affordable mental healthcare before. Especially easily accessible care that was made for people like them.
Apps vary in their design and purpose, and Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News posted an article about this, stating, “Some of these apps help with breathing techniques and grounding to avoid panic attacks. Other apps can be used for tracking behavioral triggers over an extended period. Tracking behavioral triggers digitally can help you avoid them in the future…” They are easy to find too. Just go to any app store and type in keywords like mental health, anxiety, depression, etc. You’ll see numerous apps designed to help you calm down, breathe in strategic ways to increase the happy chemicals in your brain, and reduce stress hormones. The article by Deloitte Insights went on to state, “Apps can be used to manage mental health conditions…either on their own—enabling individuals to learn about and self-manage their mental health—or…with more traditional talking therapies, such as by providing a channel to access… a mental health professional through… live chat, video, and telephone… Can also be used to improve general well-being by encouraging behavior change… mindfulness and meditation.” Being that it isn’t difficult to locate a mental health service, a different problem can arise in knowing which one to choose. A website called top10.com has researched and listed the best 10 online-based services. They are as follows: Betterhelp, ReGain, Faithful Counseling, Teen Counseling, Calmerry, Cerebral, Pride Counseling, TalkSpace, and OnlineTherapy.com. Those links will lead you to the main page for those particular sites. If you need care of this nature, it’s only a click away.
Technology has done in 12 years what therapists have wanted to for decades. Reaching the masses who need them with the kind of help that is accessible and useful is a reality from which we can all benefit. This is not to say therapists have been useless. On the contrary, they have been a lifesaver for many. Critical soldiers in the endless battleground of mental health. Many people would not be alive today without their guidance and support. Technology has changed the battle though, by bringing better weaponry to fight the illnesses that have wreaked havoc for so long.
By Gretchen Hendrick Gardella, MLIS
Gretchen Hendrick Gardella is a Librarian with administrative, research, and vast technical skills. Ms. Gardella brings over 16 years of experience working in academic and public libraries to the discussion.