Mental health apps

Emotional wellbeing is important for mental health and wellbeing. People often want to manage their own emotional issues, but sometimes they could sometimes do with some help recognizing how they feel. It can also sometimes be difficult to know where to get help or support when they need it to improve their emotional health. Monitoring risk in people with mental health problems is also a significant challenge for practitioners, parents and teachers. More than 1 in every 10 people live with anxiety or depression, but only a third of us seek professional help [1]. Ongoing monitoring when receiving help can also be a significant challenge for mental health services.

eMental Health services are beginning to erode some of the practical access barriers to mental health support by providing flexible and confidential information, support and interventions via the internet. In 2018, two thirds of the population in over 50 countries own a smartphone [2]. Australian statistics showed that in 2012, 74% of users never leave home without their mobile device [3].  Mobile mental health technology is emerging as a promising and innovative way of supporting mental health when professional services cannot be accessed [4].  There is however an overwhelming lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of these apps [5] - of the few apps that are supported by scientific research, few are still available from iTunes or Google Play stores. In a recent publication, we reviewed the research on mobile mental health apps and provide a list of 16 recommendations for researchers or app developers to consider when creating mental health apps [6].

MoodPrism

In this app, we harness the popularity of mobile technology to develop a sustainable and engaging way of monitoring and providing feedback on emotional wellbeing. The app invites users to complete regular check-ins (daily, weekly, or on demand) on their mood.  This methodology (known as ‘experience sampling methodology’ or ‘ecological momentary assessment’ [7]) is well-established as providing a more valid and reliable insight into a person’s emotional state in real time than traditional questionnaires alone. Incorporating this into a smartphone app enhances the quality of this information as a user can complete the check-ins quickly with minimal disruption to their daily activities, and using a device with which they are very familiar. 

MoodPrism provides rich feedback on a person’s emotional wellbeing as it fluctuates over time.  Providing this feedback can help users identify patterns in their moods, and the app also notes when and with whom they were at different moodpoints.  A full description of how MoodPrism was developed has been published [8].  Raising emotional awareness and insight has been demonstrated to improve wellbeing [9]. For example, in a recent study we found that using MoodPrism for 30 days increased wellbeing, and reduced depression and anxiety in a community sample.  For people who were depressed or anxious when they began using the app, this change was partially explained by the increase in emotional awareness they reported [10]. 

MoodPrism also provides users with mental health information delivered confidentially to their own phone.  The mental health resources in the app were developed in partnership with leading mental health organizations beyond blue and headspace, and are triggered by how users report they are feeling.   

Apps like MoodPrism can help people monitor changes in their emotional health on a day-to-day basis.  By providing regular feedback, use of this app may help identify when risk of emotional illhealth increases and therefore when extra help might be needed.  With permission of the user, this information could also be shared with parents, teachers, doctors or friends to access information on how people are travelling emotionally when they are not in contact with them.  In addition to be an easy to use and informative health app to use, the research we are performing also contributes to the broader evidence about whether mental health apps work and whether they help people in the way intended by their developers.

 

References cited

[1] beyondblue facts. Retrieved 28/3/18 from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts

[2] Zenith Mobile Advertising Forecasts 2017.  Retrieved 28/3/18 from https://www.zenithmedia.com/product/mobile-advertising-forecasts-2017/

[3] Our Mobile Planet. (2012). Retrieved 28/3/18 from https://services.google.com/fh/files/blogs/our_mobile_planet_australia_en.pdf  

[4] Harrison, V., et al., (2011).  Mobile mental health: Review of the emerging field. Journal of Mental Health, 20(6), 509-524.  

[5] Donker, T. et al. (2013).  Smartphones for smarter delivery of mental health programs: A systematic review.  J Med Internet Res, 15(11), e247. 

[6] Bakker, D., Kazantzis, N., Rickwood, D., & Rickard, N.S. (2016). Mental health smartphone apps: Evidence-based recommendations for future development.  JMIR – Mental Health, 3(1):e7.

[7] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (July 2014). Validity and Reliability of the Experience-Sampling Method. New York: Springer.

[8] Rickard, N.S., Arjmand, H., Bakker, D., & Seabrook, E. (2016).  Development of a mobile phone app to support self-monitoring of emotional well-being: A mental health digital innovation.  JMIR – Mental Health, 3(4), e49.

[9] Reid, S.C., Kauer, S.D., H et al. (2011).  A mobile phone application for the assessment and management of youth mental health problems in primary care: A randomised controlled trial.  BMC Family Practice, 12, 131.

[10] Bakker, D., & Rickard, N. (2017) Engagement in mobile phone app for self-monitoring of emotional wellbeing predicts changes in mental health: MoodPrism.  Journal of Affective Disorders, 227, 432-442

 

 

Published Research on MoodPrism and related apps

Rickard, N.S., Arjmand, H., Bakker, D., & Seabrook, E. (2016).  Development of a mobile phone app to support self-monitoring of emotional well-being: A mental health digital innovation.  JMIR – Mental Health, 3(4), e49. Access here

Seabrook, E., Kern, E., & Rickard. N. (2016).  Social Networking Sites, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review.  JMIR – Mental Health, 3(4), e50.  Access here

Bakker, D., Kazantzis, N., Rickwood, D., & Rickard, N.S. (2016). Mental health smartphone apps: Evidence-based recommendations for future development.  JMIR – Mental Health, 3(1):e7. Access here

 

Coming Soon

Bakker, D., Kazantzis, N., Rickwood, D., & Rickard, N. (2017).  Development and pilot evaluation of smartphone delivered Cognitive Behavior Therapy strategies for mood and anxiety related problems: MoodMission. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, accepted subject to minor revisions 5/1/18.

Seabrook, E., & Rickard, N.S. (2018). Depression is predicted by emotional instability on Facebook, but by reduced emotion variability on Twitter. Journal of Medical Internet Research, accepted 17/2/2018.

Bakker, D., & Rickard, N. (2017) Engagement in mobile phone app for self-monitoring of emotional wellbeing predicts changes in mental health: MoodPrism.  Journal of Affective Disorders, 227, 432-442.

Bakker, D., Kazantzis, N., Rickwood, D., & Rickard, N. (2018).  A Randomized Controlled Trial of Three Smartphone Apps for Anxiety and Depression Symptoms.

Bakker, D., & Rickard, N. (2017) Engagement with a cognitive behavioral therapy mobile phone app predicts changes in mental health and well-being: MoodMission.

Arjmand, H-A., & Rickard, N.S. (2017). Exploring the utility of a smartphone Experience-Sampling-Application (ESA) for exploring resilience to daily stressors.

Arjmand, H-A., & Rickard, N.S. (2017). The implementation of an Experience-Sampling-Method capturing trajectories of psychological responding following major daily stressors.

Arjmand, H-A., & Rickard, N.S. (2017). Influences of age, self-esteem, and perceived social support on classifications into trajectories of psychological responding following a daily major stressor.

Seabrook, E.M., Kern, M.L., Fulcher, B.D., & Rickard, N.S. (2018).  Do people Tweet what they feel? A case-series exploration of daily mood ratings and the emotions expressed on Twitter.