No one likes bringing rain to a parade. But sometimes too much excitement needs a dampening. Such is the case with mental health apps according to new research in the Annals of Family Medicine that evaluated app advertisements and marketing. While the study, titled “Mental Health Messages in Prominent Mental Health Apps,” ends with recommendations for health professionals, consumers can also benefit from this research and thereby both decrease potential harm and increase potential benefit. Long story short: take the initiative and start a conversation with your healthcare providers about the mental health app ads you encounter.
The researchers were interested in the images of mental health being presented. What were these app ads saying about mental health, illness and treatment? So they searched media, websites and app stores and found 61 apps from 45 developers. The apps they found were ones that claimed to reduce anxiety, panic, and stress; help people with mood disorders like depression; increase general well-being; or address some other issue like anger management or an eating disorder.
A sad face emoticon is seen on an iPhone in this photo illustration on May 25, 2018. (Photo by Jaap… [+] Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
What they found was interesting, and a little troubling. They wrote: “We identified two dominant messages about mental health: (1) poor or fragile mental health is ubiquitous, and (2) individuals can easily manage their own mental health problems with apps. Developers offered very limited scientific evidence for the apps’ claimed benefits.” They were especially concerned with what they called the “medicalization” of normal human struggles.
In other words, the image of mental health and illness being communicated is that just about ever