May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As we continue to untangle ourselves from the cabin-fever isolation of the winter months post-pandemic, many are feeling overwhelmed and mentally burdened. It’s a lot to manage – remote working, virtual schooling, mask mandates, vaccine appointments, and the day-to-day screen time and Zoom meetings. It’s no wonder people are turning, once more to the virtual space for help.
From mindfulness and meditation apps and videos to physician-focused telehealth assistance in the health space, there is digital technology at play. While it may seem as if apps keep people from going to the source and seeking professional help in the mental health space, having an app is helping people make the decision to sit down one on one with someone.
Mind the App: A Note on Market Trends
There is a proliferation of mindfulness meditation apps available on Google Play, iOS systems, and on YouTube, just to name a few. In fact, the market is set to grow exponentially over the next five to ten years. And technology companies have been paying attention.Key trends
- Design simplicity and collaboration with subject matter experts
- Engagements both personal and professional which lower energy levels leading to disturbed sleep.
- While millennials search for a more whole (read: work/life) balanced life, it’s reported Generation Z is likely to have the worst mental health issues and desire to seek alternative therapy options.
- Apps-focused issues include insomnia, anxiety, depression, mindfulness, and whole being self-care.
- More and more Americans understand mindfulness and meditation are the best resources to help unwind and lessen stressors.
Not all apps are created equal, but Headspace and Calm are two of the top contenders and most widely used. Those higher-level products backed by teams to ensure everything runs smoothly are outpacing the proliferation of self-help apps which number upwards of 20,000.
Digital Technology and Machine Learning are Moving Things Forward
From AI to Digital Technology to Machine Learning, Data professionals are working to ensure mental health apps are not a flash in the pan. Especially for those who may need help the most such as high utilizers.
These high utilizers
are those who may have multiple issues and check themselves into hospitals most frequently. Just like people worried about robots taking jobs, some therapists may worry these apps could replace in-person therapy treatments. This is unlikely as it may embolden those who need help to seek treatment in the more traditional sense. In fact, some apps could enhance therapy work rather than detract from it.
Machine learning tools helped researchers analyze nearly 10,000 patients’ EHR Data over a 2-year period. The algorithm analyzed all the factors at once for a much more efficient breakdown and determination of each factor to best identify patient characteristics. Understanding this information helped researchers determine which factors lead to the disorders for higher utilization.
Dangers and Predictions
With nearly 20,000 mental health apps on the market, there are probably a fair number which aren’t as useful as they hope or claim to be. And some can be dangerous as was discovered in a 2015 study in which therapies for bipolar disorder were found to be inconsistent with established treatments (Nicholas, J., et al., Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2015). Not to mention ineffectual apps and those which disrupt treatments already in place and established.
Mindfulness Apps at Work
For happier, healthier workers not burned out from Zoom-fatigue and remote working, business leaders are focusing more and more on mental health. Some are offering mindfulness moments or group yoga classes or meditation opportunities throughout the day for a mental health break.
Mental health discussions are now standard practice and efforts to open up more on this front through self-care prioritization and workplace wellness are making their mark. Employee mental health is top of mind
as businesses and employees navigate the new normal when it comes to work, education, and the blurring of personal and professional lives as we continue remote practices.
What was once taboo and swept under the rug has been met with Digital Technology, Apps, AI, Machine Learning, and the door is open for discussion. Whether you take a mindfulness minute, write in a journal, meditate, or log in to your app remember mental health awareness is about self-care for the whole you.
Need a mental health break? There’s an app for that.
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