Can an app on your phone really improve your mental health?

Calm is one of the more popular apps geared at improving users’ mental health.

Mental illness impacts people of all ages. In fact, one in five American adults lives with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. A major factor in improving mental health is having the means to be able to attend therapy and be properly diagnosed. But, not everyone has that luxury.

Wide exposure to digital technology has led to a rise in phone applications that claim they can lead you to a healthier state of mind. There are several apps that focus on mindfulness, self-awareness, and exercise in order to cope with certain mental illnesses.

There is wide debate over whether these apps can replace psychologists. Many experts say humans need to build a relationship and connection with therapists to express what they’re experiencing.

Certainly, apps will feed people knowledge on becoming self-aware and will share techniques to improve health. But they can not replace that human connection, said Lisette Rivera, a clinical counselor of Community Academy of Philadelphia.

Going to therapy is simply a luxury some people can not afford. That’s true for many people, especially in lower-income areas throughout Philadelphia where a number of citizens struggle to obtain health insurance.

This has become a barrier standing between people and the help they really need. Everyone should be able to go to any therapist that they desire, Rivera said.    

Finances are one of the factors that send people toward apps that promise to improve mental health. These tools can be helpful when it comes to gathering information and practicing techniques to cope with a number of forms of mental illness. But not all experts are entirely sold.

“I think [mental health apps] are good for things such as self-management, self-motivation, cognition improvement, social support, and symptom tracking,” said Rivera. “I do feel that the best form of mental health treatment is face to face, direct contact with a mental health professional.”

There are many mental health apps that are available now for people to download. They address a wide array of things including anxiety, eating disorders, and depression. According to, Calm is one of the best meditation apps currently available.

Calm is rated with a 4.8 out of 5 according to users of Apple’s App Store. Its main goal is to provide a service that helps people learn how to relax and sleep better. One reviewer wrote that the app helped them calm anxiety attacks on a daily basis.

“It soothes my tension and eases my mind,” former app user Destiny Navarro says.

Recovery Record is an app designed for eating disorders and is rated with a 4.9 out of 5. It aims to support people who suffer with eating disorders while helping them create a positive mentality around diet.

Some reviewers wrote that Recovery Record has kept them motivated to have a better food diet and that the environment helps them organize and feel at ease.  

Depression CBT Self-Help Guide is an app that helps with common mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression. This app helps people maintain a more positive mindset and shares information about clinical depression and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Reviewers wrote that it helps them collect their thoughts and learn ways to improve their well being with depression.

According to Saleemah McNeil, a reproductive psychiatrist, these apps will not support severe mental disorders such as situational depression, schizophrenia, and others.

Users experience varying levels of success with these apps. Although many experts caution that they surely will not “cure” the mental disorders that many people suffer from. They can change one thing: self awareness.

That alone can help people maintain a healthy plan toward getting better and seeking the help that they need. Modernization continues to change the mental health field day by day.

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