In a modern, fast-paced world, it can be difficult to look after our mental health at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic that is impacting everyone and the ‘normal’ they once knew. While most of us know the avenues to take should we feel the need to get help with our mental health, those routes are not as freely available as they once were.
Social distancing rules applied to slow the spread of the virus means that mental health services have been reduced and in some areas, completely halted. A recent study by RTT was undertaken to gain an insight into how those within the US are adapting to find ways to cope during the crisis, the full results of which can be seen here: https://rtt.com/coping-with-covid-19/. The internet has proven invaluable during the pandemic, most apparently with the rise in video calling software for communication with loved ones, colleagues, and clients.
However, there is a less obvious avenue that many are taking, below, we take a look at just how apps are helping the US public with their mental wellbeing during COVID-19.
How Apps Are Helping With Mental Health
Wellbeing apps are no new invention, Headspace, Calm and Better Help have been around for years and many people swear by them to keep a clear head and prevent mental strain during their everyday lives.
However, since the announcement of the pandemic, search interest online for these providers have almost doubled in the US. Like any services, they experienced peaks during certain months of 2020 and there is no coincidence that these surges were in line with major events within the US.
These events were not just COVID-19 related, other matters such as the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests also saw a correlation in increased search interest for wellbeing applications.
In July of this year, Headspace saw a 101% increase in reviews, compared to back in March. Many of these reviews stated that the user had chosen to download Headspace to help specifically with COVID-19 related mental health concerns, including the need to feel centered and maintain a sense of routine.
Isolation and Online Help
While there will always be a myriad of reasons anybody would require mental health support, the most common reason for increased online searches was isolation and loneliness.
When searching terms for online aid, many users also declared this was in-line with isolation related mental health issues within their search bars.
Loneliness and isolation can be as bad on physical health as it is on mental health and is reported to be as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Even any otherwise healthy individual with no other mental health concerns can begin to deteriorate if they are experiencing increasing loneliness.
Loneliness can lead to PTSD, anxiety and stress, depression, and sleep disruption if not properly addressed.
Symptoms of Poor Mental Health
Mental health problems aren’t always apparent, even to those who possess them, below is a list of common symptoms that many do not consider, that could point towards diminishing mental health:
- Changes in appetite- this could be a lack of hunger or excessive overeating
- Sleep changes- from insomnia to oversleeping frequently
- Dramatic and rapid mood changes or depressed feelings, often with no obvious explanation as to why
- Social withdrawal- a loss of interest in interacting with loved ones
- A drop in function-unable to perform familiar tasks at work, school, or home life
- Issues thinking- loss in concentration, memory and struggling with speech
- Heightened sensitivity- towards sights, sounds, touch, or smell and a want to avoid overstimulation
Can Wellbeing Apps Help?
In the short-term, yes, mental wellbeing apps can certainly provide some much-needed support during this time. However, they should not be considered as a permanent replacement for therapy.
Those who have mental health issues, no matter how small, should always seek professional advice and help. Mental health apps are not tailored to specific needs and experiences, while a trained therapist can analyze an individual to really gain what they need to get better.
This isn’t to say that wellbeing apps don’t have their uses, many mental health professionals do recommend them, but as a supplement to therapy sessions. Overall, they can’t do any harm to anyone, unless that person believes they are going to be ‘cured’ using them.
“Our work as psychologists is to help people look at their minds. There are so many mental health apps out there, but they have a short-term effect if people don’t look at their minds and their ingrained beliefs.”- Yasmine Saad, Ph.D. (Psychiatrist).
If you or anyone you know are struggling with their mental health, the sooner professionals are consulted, the better. The longer someone tries to tackle their problems alone, the harder it can be to get out of this mindset. 2020 is all about helping each other and looking out for mental health, don’t be afraid to reach out.