In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, we explore the world of Mental Health Tech, highlighting our top five apps in the market with ORCHA scores of above 70%.*
Amid funding shortages and an explosion in demand for mental health care, experts have noted technology has the potential to bridge gaps in access to services, improve the quality of care and deliver personalised treatments, all while helping to alleviate the pressures on traditional healthcare systems. There are more than 380,000 health apps available through Apple and Android app stores, and around 20,000 of them address mental health (European Connected Health Alliance).
According to the World Health Organisation, untreated mental health problems account for 13% of the total global burden of disease. It is projected that, by 2030, almost 1 billion people will have a mental health disorder and, that mental health problems (particularly depression) will be the leading cause of mortality and morbidity globally.
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has exasperated mental health. The Office for National Statistics found that around 1 in 5 (21%) adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021; this is an increase of 19% since November 2020 and more than double the figure observed before the COVID-19 pandemic. There has also been a worrying rise in depression for young adults and adults between the years of 16 to 39. Rates have risen from 11% pre-pandemic to 29%; this is particularly prevalent in women aged 16 to 29 with 43% experiencing depression in early 2021 compared to 26% in men of the same age range.
According to a survey commissioned by the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London, mental health was the third biggest priority for the British public in the road to recovery post-pandemic. The crisis has been felt so deeply that the UK Government has issued £500 million in funding as part of a dedicated COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing recovery action plan. Details of this can be found here.
As part of our response to this global pandemic, we not only want to tackle the public health threat of coronavirus but ensure our clinicians have the resources to deal with the impact on people’s mental health.
– Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock
It’s essential we recognise the massive leap forward in the use of mental health apps by citizens during the pandemic and increasing evidence of their popularity and efficacy… apps have so much to offer. We have to be on a mission to improve their quality overall and ORCHA works behind the scenes with app developers to do just that.
– Founding CEO of ORCHA, Liz Ashall-Payne
Here are our top five apps reviewed and approved by ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications)…
An NHS endorsed app, distrACT provides trusted information and links to support people who self-harm and may feel suicidal. distrACT helps users understand urges to self-harm, enables people to discover self-help techniques and safer alternatives, has consolidated, accessible details about available services and support, and gives clear advice about how to act in an emergency or crisis. In the app, you can also explore the ‘chill-zone’ with links to resources that can make you feel better, such as films, books and online videos.
The app won the British Medical Association ‘Patient Information Award 2019’ for wellbeing and was ‘Highly commended’ for the 2018 National Healthwatch England #NHS70 Award. distrACT is part of Expert Self Care, a company led by Founder and Director Dr Knut Schroeder, an experienced GP and health information specialist. Expert Self Care is the UK’s only dedicated health information app producer. The team aims to make reliable health information easily accessible, offer educational and healthcare providers customised pages and develop own-brand (white label) apps for other organisations.
This app is designed for people when they are at their most vulnerable. It can be hard to seek help, so distrACT aims to make that process as easy as possible. The young people we worked with have informed the content and design, so we hope that it can become a reliable source of support during difficult times.
– Dr Knut Schroeder (interview with Medical Xpress).
ORCHA score: 81%
Feeling Good is another app recommended for use by NHS Digital; it is used by over 2,000 doctors and Nurses and has helped 80,000 patients create a positive mindset through Mental Training audio programmes based on scientific research and Olympic Psychology. The app was created in 2004 by Dr Alastair Dobbin, a GP and Dr Sheila Ross, a health promotion specialist whose intentions were to design a programme for mental health recovery with a self-development focus, rather than a clinical illness-based approach.
Users following Feeling Good’s Positive Mental Training programmes are taught how to build their mental resilience, confidence and coping mechanisms to help lift their moods and recover from stress, anxiety and depression. Programmes are centred around visualisation and goal-setting, relaxation, positive psychology, self-determination, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness.
Studying medicine, I became interested in the science of the body and so became a family doctor, but I never lost interest in the mind. I soon realised that there was a huge burden of distress in most of my patients and I started to look for techniques that might help them.
– Dr Alastair Dobbin
Life can be so stressful, it’s not surprising that 1 in 4 of us experience depression or anxiety at some time. I was not taught how to look after my mental health, only physical health. I’ve now learnt from developing Positive Mental Training that it’s possible to learn skills for emotional balance, to grow resilience and feel more positive about life.
– Dr Sheila Ross
ORCHA score: 79%
MeToo is a multi-award-winning Teen Mental health chat app for anyone aged 11-25 years old that makes it easy to talk about difficult things. The app was founded by psychologist Suzi Godson and technologist Kerstyn Comley and launched in 2017. It now supports 45,000+ people with a team of four counsellors, 10 moderators and 34 super-peers.
Rigorous psychological research and independent evaluations by experts from CAMHS North London and Essex confirm the effectiveness of the MeeToo app. Users can ask anonymous questions to an audience group of a similar age to get reliable support and advice. Every single post is moderated before it goes live to stop bullying, grooming or harassment.
In 2020, the team launched a brand new in-app directory using the resources from their Teenage Mental Help Handbook, which beat 600 other entries to win the British Medical Association’s Health and Social Care Book of the Year Award in 2019; this gives users on-demand access to hundreds of specialist helplines and support services.
Although my original emphasis had been on making it easy for young people to ask difficult questions around sex and relationships, when we piloted our MVP in three secondary schools we immediately realised that young people needed support across a much broader spectrum of issues. Five years later, our multi-award winning MeeToo mental help app is supporting 45,000 young people and is part of the NHS apps library
– Suzi Godson (interview with TechRound)
ORCHA score: 81%.
pzizz claims to be the world’s most advanced sleep and power nap system, allowing you to fall asleep fast, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed. Endorsed by NBA star Roy Hibbert as the cure to his insomnia, the app uses psychoacoustic principles to create “dreamscapes” developed using the latest clinical research to ensure a better quality of sleep.
Founded by Rockwell Shah in 2015 the pzizz’s dreamscapes are customisable to the user and feature a hybrid music system (over 100 billion sequences of human-composed, algorithmically remixed sounds), variable voiceover narrations, customisable length and alarms, and features such as sleep tracking. Shah channelled his experience at a medical software company, where he worked his way up the corporate ladder from tech support agent to firm President in the creation of the app.
Spending the better part of a decade in US healthcare will teach you all sorts of things about what’s wrong with people’s health. Sleep was definitely an issue at the top of the list… Insomnia was becoming ever more of a problem, especially in the hyper-connected world we live in. I had my own run-ins with sleep issues earlier in my life, so I knew how crippling they could be.
– Rockwell Shah (interview with Authority Magazine)
ORCHA score: 73%
7 Cups is an Anxiety and Stress Chat platform that 7 Cups connects you to caring, trained listeners for free emotional support 24/7.
Founded in 2013 by Glen Moriarty, a licensed psychologist, 48 million conversations have already taken place on the app/ through the website. 7 Cups now boasts over 300,000 trained listeners and 180 professional therapists and is available in 189 countries and in 140 languages.
7 Cups also has dedicated support for teens, dedicated community forums for peer to peer discussion, an active expert mental health news and advice hub where leading doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and counsellors share their guidance and confidential online therapy and counselling with licensed therapists, for $150 per month.
No matter who you are or what you’re going through, this is a place where you’ll be heard and cared for. We might be strangers on the surface, but underneath we’re just the friends you haven’t met yet
– 7 Cups website
ORCHA score: 79%
At Insight, we are prepared to see another rise in heath-tech related vacancies. Our Technology Recruitment team is primed to work with clients within the industry, if you have a requirement, get in touch with our specialists today!
* ORCHA independently reviews Health Tech apps to ensure they are fit for service, their digital library is accessible at a cost here: https://orchahealth.com/services/digital-health-libraries/
Insight Recruitment’s Tech division have recruited technical professionals for high profile businesses in the Health-Tech sector. For more on our Tech specialisms take a look at our dedicated section here.
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