Are mental health apps useful?


Mental health apps are taking the load off US therapists. Three to the test.


This app helps one control panic attacks. It contains articles, audio files and even details relaxation techniques.

Effectiveness: This app offers a text book picture and doesn’t have the necessary checkpoints. Besides, everyone doesn’t have the same relationship with panic. The information is correct but it generalises. User-interface: It is simple and feels like a textbook with lots of theory and little practical application Areas of improvement: It doesn’t recognise the situation that a person may be in before arriving at a solution. – Dr Rukhsana Ayaz


This application offers the PHQ-9 self-questionnaire to selftest whether they might have major depression. It provides users with a severity score of their depressive symptoms.

Effectiveness: The first question, ‘How often are you feeling depressed?’ doesn’t have enough options. It doesn’t take into account that people can be depressed for a number of hours in a day or for certain days in a week. It offers a blanket perspective. Depression is measured in specific parameters and the intensity is vital. If I am a 15-year-old, who has had a fight in school, my feeling would be different from an adult who has failed a job interview, which this app will fail to recognise. Depression is a personal feeling and no two people would manifest it in the same way, even if their score, in this app, would be the same. It looks into the criterion of depression, but doesn’t accurately measure it. Many people will end up saying ‘yes’ to a lot of things and only come off with mild depression, according to their score. The test also doesn’t separate depression from sadness. So those who are generally anxious, pessimistic or harsh on themselves will be diagnosed as depressed. This could cause many to turn paranoid and feel like a victim.

User interface: It’s easy to use and isn’t time consuming. People using such apps don’t want to waste time and have a short-attention span so it’s ideal.

Areas of improvement: The time and intensity needs to be taken into account. They need to include more questions that provide a context of where a person is coming from. It can misguide people as it offers half-baked knowledge and can turn some into hypochondriacs. – Sonali Gupta


Have you ever wished you could put all your worries in a box and walk away? The Worry Box is an app that functions like a journal: You can write down your thoughts, anxieties, and worries. It asks questions, gives specific anxiety-reducing solutions, and can direct you to seek the right help.


Effectiveness: This app focuses on multiple modalities (audio and visual). It follows a cognitive behavioural approach, and the instructions for meditation are helpful. It evaluates if your anxiety is real and whether you can do something about it or not. It can be a supplementary tool, along with therapy. But it won’t work on OCD, anxiety and hypochondriacs.

User interface: It’s simple to navigate. Saving data is easy and it is interactive. Areas of improvement: May be some kind of disclaimer would help. If your worries are emotional, like a breakup, this app won’t work. It would only work for those who are cognitive in their approach and are ready and accepting. But there are issues that cannot be resolved by putting them in a ‘box’. For instance, if you’re not fine with the way your child is being brought up, these are issues that need to be confronted and not just dealt with using an app.

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