Modern technology seems to have an answer for almost anything nowadays and the most prevalent advantage we are seeing this year is how apps are helping people during the pandemic.

Technology has proved it’s more valuable than ever, from track and trace systems, rising usage in video calls and mental health apps, smart technology is being utilized more than ever across the world.

To gain an insight into just how popular mental health apps have been in 2020, RTT conducted a study using app reviews for Headspace, Calm and Better Help, along with information from Google relating to search interest between January and September of this year within the USA. We take a closer look at what they found.


Interest Peaks Along With Major Events

Search interest for mental health apps peaked in line with major events in the USA.

From Trump announcing a national emergency in March and the nation leaving the global health collective in July, there were surges in searches.

It wasn’t just COVID19 related events that caused the public to reach out for online help after the killing of George Floyd and the peak in the Black Lives Matter protests, the public was rightly seeking solace after the terrible event and the awareness that was spread for what had been happening.

In fact, over the months in the study, the three apps increased by just under 100% compared to the same months in 2019. Headspace alone gained 101% more reviews in 2020 than it did last year.

Why Apps Are So Popular For Mental Health?

Mental health apps are no new invention, in fact, they have been going for decades and new applications and features are constantly being released.

This year, not only are those with pre-existing mental health conditions having to turn to alternatives due to social distancing measures not allowing normal treatments and consultations, but there has been a significant rise in new cases of mental health issues.

Everyone is under increasing pressure at the moment, from the worry of physical health of oneself or loved ones, financial stress from job loss or furlough to front-line staff struggling through the toughest time in their professional career.

Healthcare workers in China reported depression in over half of the staff surveyed, along with anxiety and insomnia.

Loneliness is another reason that many people are turning to whatever help they can find. Even those without any other worries or health concerns can see detrimental physical and mental health implications.

Social isolation and loneliness have been stated to be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

With increasing numbers of the public unable to see family and friends and not even being able to benefit from socialising with colleagues in the office, loneliness is swiftly becoming the next mental health pandemic.

The Benefits of Mental Health Apps

The main reason mental health apps are so great during the pandemic is that they can be used at home, or wherever is safe and following social distancing guidelines.

This means the barriers COVID19 has presented for many other aspects of life do not impact these services.

They also provide anonymity, despite the stigma of mental health being removed vastly compared to a few decades ago, some still don’t feel comfortable talking about their feelings and struggles.

They are also consistent, while trained mental health professionals will have undertaken similar training, there will also be some who are better than others. Mental health apps provide the same features to all users.

Are Mental Health Apps a Replacement for Therapy?

To be short, no. Mental health apps are valuable during a time when traditional therapy isn’t available.

Even with many professionals offering online sessions, with such an increase in demand, there is an inevitable backlog of patients waiting to be seen.

Mental health apps should be seen only as a short-term solution until we return to ‘normal’, however, if an individual is really struggling with their mental health and are having any drastic thoughts or feelings, they should seek professional help immediately.

Many therapists suggest mental health apps as a supplement to their own sessions.

They do provide a great way to practice mindfulness and mediation daily, teamed with regular face-to-face sessions, this can be incredibly beneficial.

But these apps do not have the means to tailor a bespoke service to really help people get better and through incredibly tough times.

They should only ever be used as a sole treatment if the user doesn’t have mental health issues and is rather looking to prevent a decline in their mental wellbeing, rather than cure it.

“Our work as psychologists is to help people look at their minds.

There are so many mental health apps out there, but they have a short-term effect if people don’t look at their minds and their ingrained beliefs.”- Yasmine Saad, Ph.D. (Psychiatrist).

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