Impact Report: Fostering understanding with self-care

Impact Report: Fostering understanding with self-care

Impact report on uMore self-care activities

uMore launches the first collection of self-care activities designed to help users take action to improve their personal well-being. Each self-care activity is based on scientific evidence and helps foster health-promoting abilities.

October 2021

uMore launches self-care activities on iOS

uMore launches the first collection of self-care activities designed to help users take action to improve their personal well-being. Each self-care activity is based on scientific evidence and fosters health-promoting abilities.

Initial user feedback from the first self-care activities in-app has revealed that the activities have proved helpful to the user to identify stress, better understand how they feel, and manage their stress response. Overall, users who engage more frequently with activities are less prone to exhibit high-stress levels.

New activities will continue to be released on the uMore app, following the feedback from the activities featured in this paper.

How do the uMore self-care activities work?

The uMore self-care activities are designed to help users learn about their mental well-being, manage the effects of distress as it arises, and promote positive behaviors that are good for our health.

They are all based on real science and evidence from psychological research. There are activities based on mindfulness meditations, cognitive behavioral therapy, gratitude, relationship exercises, and many more!

Each one has a start and a finish, interactively asking meaningful questions throughout the activity. Every activity has a different goal in mind, helping users identify the health-promoting abilities that they want to strengthen.

Self-care is not a substitute for receiving help from a medical professional. uMore’s self-care activities can be used to learn more about and manage our mental health, but they are not a form of therapy. If you feel your mental health is in need of or could benefit from the help of a clinician, contact your local healthcare center today. The uMore app also features a database of telephone helplines to contact in the case of significant mental distress.

uMore is committed to providing helpful and accessible mental health support to the world. Our mission is to be able to provide instant screening and recommendations to anyone, anywhere.

uMore is committed to providing helpful and accessible mental health support to the world. Our mission is to be able to provide instant screening and recommendations to anyone, anywhere.

uMore is committed to providing helpful and accessible mental health support to the world. Our mission is to be able to provide instant screening and recommendations to anyone, anywhere. We are now making this possible through our free-to-download app.

As part of this mission, we also recognize the importance to be connected with global health services and well-being resources, in case of a health emergency. Some mental health experiences require immediate medical attention.

To support this, uMore has created the most complete database of mental health helplines around the world. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please consult this list of helplines that we have created. The below list is organized by country alphabetically.

Country Contact Details Helpline
Afghanistan Tel: 119 The Afghanistan Emergency Hotline.
Albania Tel: 127 National Emergency Hotline
Algeria Tel: 0021 3983 2000 58 Harare Samaritans
American Samoa Tel: 212-614-6379 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline American Samoa
Andorra Tel: 112 Andorra Emergency Hotline
Angola Tel: 113 Angola Emergency Hotline
Anguilla Tel: 4584240 Mental Health Rehabilitation Center
Antigua and Barbuda Tel: 463-5555 Antigua & Barbuda Support And Referral Centre
Argentina Tel: (54-11) 4758-2554 Centro de Atencíon al Familiar del Suicida
Armenia Tel: (2) 538194 Trust Social Work and Sociological Research Centre
Aruba Tel: 281-0909 Mental Health Hotline
Australia Tel: 1800 242 636 Carers Australia
Austria Tel: 01 504 8000 Professional Association of Austrian Psychologists Helpline
Azerbaijan Tel: 112 National Emergency Hotline
Bahamas Tel: (242) 328-0922 Bahamas Crisis Centre
Bahrain Tel: (+973) 39425525 Hotline Patient Relations Office – Psychiatric Hospital
Bangladesh Bangalink: 122023 ROB / 122 TELETALK Kaan Pete Roi
Barbados Tel: 911 National Emergency Hotline
Belarus Tel: 102 Belarus Emergency Hotline
Belgium Tel: 106 Tele Onthaal
Belize Tel: 911 Belize Emergency Hotline
Benin Tel: 117 Benin Emergency Hotline
Bermuda Tel: (441) 278-4900 Ministry of Health
Bhutan Tel: 112 Health Help Center
Bolivia Tel: (00 591 4) 4 25 42 42 Teléfono de la Esperanza
Bosnia and Herzegovina Tel: 0800-300303 Centar Srce
Botswana Tel: 267 7552 7590 Lifeline/FTMTB
Brazil Tel: 55 11 31514109 CVV Sao Paulo – National Association
British Indian Ocean Territory Tel: 08 9164 8333 Christmas Island
British Virgin Islands Tel: +1 284-494-3497 Peebles Hospital
Brunei Tel: 145 National Suicide Hotline
Bulgaria Tel: 0035 9249 17 223 Sofia Hotline
Burkina Faso Tel: 17 Burkina Faso Emergency Hotline
Burundi Tel: 117 Burundi Emergency Hotline
Cambodia Tel: 855 17 222 372 TPO Cambodia
Cameroon Tel: 17117 Cameroon Emergency Hotline
Canada Tel: 1 (905) 688 3711 (DCO) Distress Centre Niagara Ontario
Cape Verde Tel: 132 Cape Verde Emergency Hotline
Caribbean Netherlands Tel: 599 416 0196 Mental Health Caribbean
Cayman Islands Tel: +1 345-949-8600 Cayman Islands Hospital / Health Services Authority
Central African Republic Tel: 611253 Central African Republic Emergency Hotline
Chad Tel: 17 Chad Emergency Hotline
Chile Tel: (00 56 42) 22 12 00 Teléfono de la Esperanza
China Tel: (21) 63798990 Lifeline Shanghai
Colombia Tel:(00 57 5) 372 27 27 Telefono de la Esperanza- Baranquilla
Comoros Tel: +269 773 78 30 Ministry of Health
Cook Islands Tel: +682 22 499 Cook Island Police
Costa Rica Tel: 506-253-5439 Costa Rica Suicide Hotline
Cote d’Ivoire Tel: +225.20.21.0871 Ministry of Health
Croatia Tel: (01) 4833-888 Plavi Telefon
Cuba Tel: 532 348 14 49 0800-300303
Curacao Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Cyprus Tel: (357) 77 77 72 67 Cyprus Samaritans
Czechia Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Democratic Republic of the Congo Tel: 112 Democratic Republic of the Congo Emergency Hotline
Denmark Tel: (45) 70 201 201 Livslinien
Djibouti Tel: 17 Djibouti Emergency Hotline
Dominica Tel: 999 Dominica Emergency Hotline
Dominican Republic Tel: 911 Dominican Republic Emergency Hotline
Ecuador Tel: 6000477 Telefono de la Esperanza
Egypt Tel: 762 1602/3 Befrienders Cairo
El Salvador Tel: 911 El Salvador Emergency Hotline
Equatorial Guinea Tel: 114 Equatorial Guinea Emergency Hotline
Eritrea Tel: 12-77-99 Eritrea Emergency Hotline
Estonia Tel: (372) 6558088 Eluliin (Estonian Lifeline)
Eswatini Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Ethiopia Tel: 997 Ethiopia Emergency Hotline
Faroe Islands Tel: +298304050 Heilsumálaráðið Ministry of Health
Federated States of Micronesia Tel: (691) 320-2872 Ministry of Health
Fiji Tel: (0679) 670565 Ba Methodist Lifeline Counselling Service
Finland Tel: (09) 731391 Itsemurhien ehkäisykeskus, SOS – palvelu
France Tel: (01) 46 21 46 46 SOS Help
French Guiana Tel: 800-273-8255. Suicide Prevention Lifeline
French Polynesia Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Gabon Tel: 1730 Gabon Emergency Hotline
Georgia Tel: 1-800-715-4225 Georgia Crisis & Access Line
Germany Tel: 0800 181 0771 British Armed Forces (Germany)
National
Ghana Tel: 2332 444 71279 Lifeline
Gibraltar Tel: 55666 British Armed Forces Link (Gibraltar) National
Greece Tel: +30 210-3417160-2 Klimaka NGO
Greenland Tel: 134 National Crisis Number
Grenada Tel: 439-1231 Grenada Emergency Hotline
Guadeloupe Tel: 08 00 39 19 19 Initiative Eco
Guam Tel: (671) 647-8833/ 647-8834 Guam Behavioral Health & Wellness Center
Guatemala Tel: 110 Guatemala Emergency Hotline
Guernsey Tel: 725241 Mental Health Service
Guinea Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Guinea-Bissau Tel: 117 Guinea-Bissau Emergency Hotline
Guyana Tel: 223-0001, Whatsapp: 592-600-7896 Guyana Police Force Inter-agency Suicide Prevention Help Line
Haiti Tel: 114 Haiti Emergency Hotline
Honduras Tel: (00 504) 2558 08 08 Telefono de la Esperanza
Hong Kong Tel: (852) 28 960 000 The Samaritans
Hungary Tel: (46) 323 888 T.E.S. Miskolc
Iceland Tel: 1717 Suicide Helpline
India Tel: (91) 33 2474 4704 Befrienders India – National Association
Indonesia Tel: 500-454 Kementerian Kesehatan
Iran Tel: 1480 Iran Organisation of Well Being
Iraq Tel: 911 Iraq Emergency Hotline
Ireland Tel: 44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 Samaritans UK & ROI
Israel Tel: 1201 “ERAN” (-ï”øò)
Italy Tel: 800 86 00 22 Samaritans – ONLUS
Jamaica Tel: (876) 930-1152 Jamaica Suicide Hotline
Japan Tel: +81 (0) 3 5286 9090 Befrienders International, Tokyo
Jersey Tel: 1-855-654-6735 Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Jordan Tel: 911 National emergency number
Kazakhstan Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Kenya Tel: 254 20 3000378 Support Line Kenya
Kiribati Tel: +68674028100 Ministry of Health
Kosovo Tel: +383 (0) 38 200 35 567 Ministry of Health
Kuwait Tel: 22440904/22402401 Social Development Office
Kyrgyzstan Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Laos Tel: 21-2706 Laos Emergency Hotline
Latvia Tel: 371 67222922 Skalbes
Lebanon Tel: 1564 Suicide Hotline Lebanon (Embrace)
Lesotho Tel: 123 Lesotho Emergency Hotline
Liberia Tel: 6534308 Lifeline Liberia
Libya Tel: 1515 Libya Emergency Hotline
Lithuania Tel: 8-800 2 8888 Youth Psychological Aid Centre -Vilnius Youth Line
Luxembourg Tel: 454545 SOS Détresse – Hëllef iwwer Telefon
Macao Tel:( 853)2831 3731 Health Bureau
Madagascar Tel: 117 Madagascar Emergency Hotline
Malawi Tel: 997 Malawi Emergency Hotline
Malaysia Tel: (06) 284 2500 Befrienders Malacca
Maldives Tel: 119 Maldives Emergency Hotline
Mali Tel: 17 Mali Emergency Hotline
Malta Tel: 179 Appogg Supportline 179
Marshall Islands Tel: (692) 625-7710 Ministry of Health and Human Services
Martinique Tel: +596 596 751575 University Hospital of Martinique
Mauritania Tel: 117 Mauritania Emergency Hotline
Mauritius Tel: 800 93 93 Befrienders, Mauritius
Mayotte Tel: +33 2 62 97 90 00 French Regional Health Agency – Indian Ocean (ARS Océan Indien)
Mexico Tel: (55) 5259-8121 Saptel
Moldova Tel: 37360806623 Altruism Association Moldova
Mongolia Tel: (+976) 1800-2000 Mongolia Mental Health Hotline
Montenegro Tel: 112 Montenegro Emergency Hotline
Montserrat Tel: 491-3895/8142 MoH Montserrat Social Services
Morocco Tel: +212 (5) 22 87 47 40 Sourire de Reda (Befrienders Casablanca for young people)
Mozambique Tel: 119 Mozambique Emergency Hotline
Myanmar (Burma) Tel:+95 1 58 5 197 Yangon Psychiatric Health Hospital
Namibia Tel: (09264) 61-232-221 LifeLine Namibia
Nauru Tel: +91 95952 80280 Praanfoundation
Nepal Tel: 1660-0133666 Mental Health Helpline Nepal
Netherlands Tel: 0602 222 88 British Armed Forces Link (Netherlands)
New Caledonia Tel: 0508 828 865 Suicide Crisis Helpline
New Zealand Tel: (04) 586 1048 Samaritans Hutt Valley (inc)
Nicaragua Police Tel: 118 (Spanish)
24 hour help line for tourists: 101 (English and Spanish)
Nicaragua Helplines
Niger Tel: 17 Niger Emergency Hotline
Nigeria Tel: 08091116264 MANI
Norfolk Island Tel: 757-622-1126 National Suicide Prevention Helpline
North Macedonia Tel: 15 315 National Helpline
Northern Mariana Islands Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Norway Tel: : (+47) 815 33 300 Kirkens SOS i Norge (Landssekretariatet)
Oman Tel: 112 Oman Emergency Hotline
Pakistan Tel: 92 317 4288665 Umang Pakistan
Palau Tel: (680) 488-2552/2553 Ministry of Health Republic of Palau
Palestine Tel: +97092384771-6 Ministry of Health
Panama Tel: 911 Panama Emergency Hotline
Papua New Guinea Tel: 675 326 0011 LifeLine Port Moresby
Paraguay Tel: 911 Paraguay Emergency Hotline
Peru Tel : (00 51 1) 273 8026 Telefono de la Esperanza
Philippines Tel: (02) 8969191 Manila Lifeline Centre
Poland Tel: 52 70 000 Olsztynski Telefon Zaufania ‘Anonimowy Przyjaciel
Portugal Tel: (+351) 225 50 60 70 Voz de Apoio
Puerto Rico Tel: 1-800-981-0023 Linea Pas
Qatar Tel: 999 Qatar Emergency Hotline
Republic of the Congo Tel: (301) 654-8338 UC Ministry of Health
Reunion Tel: 151 Ministry of Health
Romania Tel: 0800 0800 20 Alianţa Română de Prevenţie a Suicidului
Russia Tel: 007 (8202) 577-577 Samaritans (Cherepovets)
Rwanda Tel: 112 Rwanda Emergency Hotline
Saint Kitts and Nevis Tel: 09 8392 4005 Social Emergency and Crisis Center
Saint Lucia Tel: 1 758-453-1521 St Lucia Crisis Centre
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Tel: 911 St. Vincent and the Grenadines Emergency Hotline
Samoa Tel: (+381) 21-6623-393 SRCE Novi Sad
San Marino Tel: 113 San Marino Emergency Hotline
Sao Tome and Principe Tel: 22-22-22 Sao Tome and Principe Emergency Hotline
Saudi Arabia Tel: 920 03 33 60 Psychological Counseling Contact Center
Senegal Tel: 17 Senegal Emergency Hotline
Serbia Tel: (044) 08080 Prishtina
Seychelles Tel: 999 Seychelles Emergency Hotline
Sierra Leone Tel: 19 Sierra Leone Emergency Hotline
Singapore Tel: 1800- 221 4444 Samaritans of Singapore
Sint Maarten Tel: 542-2078 The Department of Public Health
Slovakia Tel: 051 7731 000 Linka dôvery (Prešov)
Slovenia Tel: 116 123 Zaupni telefon Samarijan in Sopotnik
Solomon Islands Tel: 911 Solomon Emergency Hotline
Somalia Tel: 888 Somalia Emergency Hotline
South Africa Tel: 0861 322 322 Befrienders South Africa
South Korea Tel: (2) 715 8600 Love-Line (Sarang – Jonwha) Counselling Centre
Spain Tel: 717 003 717 Telefono de la Esperanza
Sri Lanka Tel: 011 057 2222662 The National Council of Sri Lanka Sumithrayo
Sudan Tel: (249) 11-555-253 Befrienders Khartoum
Suriname Tel: 112 Suriname Emergency Hotline
Sweden Tel: (46) 31 711 2400 Nagon att tala med Samaritans
Switzerland Tel: +41 (0) 27 321 21 21 PARSPAS
Syria Tel: 112 Syria Emergency Hotline
Taiwan Tel: 1995 Kaohsiung Life Line
Tajikistan Tel: 112 Emergency Hotline
Tanzania Tel: 112 Tanzania Emergency Hotline
Thailand Tel: (02) 713-6793 Samaritans of Thailand
The Bahamas Tel: (242) 322-2763 National Hotline for Crisis Intervention
The Gambia Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Timor-Leste Tel: +670 333 1113 Ministry of Health
Togo Tel: (228) 90 92 22 22 VisionTogo (VTG)
Tonga Tel: 23000 Lifeline Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago Tel: (868) 645 2800 CUREPE LifeLine
Tunisia Tel: 197 Tunisia Emergency Hotline
Turkey Tel: 182 Emergency hotline
Turkmenistan Tel: 3 Turkmenistan Emergency Hotline
Turks and Caicos Islands Tel: (649) 333-0911 Ministry of Health
Tuvalu Tel: (+688) 20480 Princess Margaret Hospital
U.S. Virgin Islands Tel: (340) 776-6400 Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States
Uganda Tel: 800200450 Befriender Uganda
Ukraine Tel: 058 Telephone of confidence “Stavropyghion-058” Lviv
United Arab Emirates Tel: 920033360 National Committee for the Promotion of Mental Health
United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 Samaritans UK & ROI
United States Tel: 1-800-784-2433 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Uruguay Tel: 911 Uruguay Emergency Hotline
Uzbekistan Tel: 2 Uzbekistan Emergency Hotline
Vanuatu Tel: +(678) 22512 / +(678) 33080 Ministry of Health
Venezuela Tel: 0241-8433308 Telefono de la Esperanza
Vietnam Tel: 877-727-4747 Didi Hirsch Torture Crisis Line
Western Sahara Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Lifeline-International/Looking-for-Help/Looking-for-Help Lifeline International
Yemen Tel: 199 Yemen Emergency Hotline
Zambia Tel: 933 Lifeline/Childline Zambia
Zimbabwe Tel: (9) 650 00 Samaritans – Bulawayo

Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders

Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders

Alejandro is the Chief-Scientific Officer of uMore, the AI-powered mental well-being tracker.

Why Skydiving Feels A Lot Like A Mindfulness Meditation

Why Skydiving Feels A Lot Like A Mindfulness Meditation

Recently, uMore was awarded 1st Place in the Gritti Fund’s #PitchUpInTheSky competition, a competition where Dubai-based startups had to pitch their business ideas. It all sounds very normal, until you realize that the pitch had to be delivered 12,000 feet up in the sky, on a plane, just before a skydive. It was thrilling to say the least.

The event was live-streamed on social media in collaboration with TikTok and Dubai Tourism. It can still be viewed on YouTube today through this link. It was a pleasure to have been a part of such an innovative event, which to date is the most streamed pitching competition in history.

I wanted to share however a takeaway I had while I commenced the actual skydive itself. To me, the skydive reminded me of my own experiences trying to meditate.

After having been announced as the winners, my skydiving partner, Rodney, and I sat on the side of the plane. It was overwhelming at first, to see the Dubai coastline rush by in a frenzied roar. At this point I was feeling pretty nervous, though these feelings of agitation all started to leave as soon as the jump commenced.

For those of you who have never skydived… know this. It is the most calming things you can do. It sounds crazy, but the skydiving experience is very similar to meditation. You begin with a frantic rush and an inability to concentrate on one single things as you plummet down to the ground at speeds too quick to grapple with. This is not to different to the racing thoughts we encounter when trying to meditate, getting distracted with little focus.

Meditation can help us break away from racing thoughts.

However once the parachute is pulled, there is absolute tranquility. There is silence and little movement, as you glide through the air peacefully you feel relieved of all the stress which came before.

From my own experiences when meditating, I always am aware of my own agitations and stresses before I begin. Even when I start to meditate, these feelings linger while I try to concentrate on my breathe. I notice the frantic and frenzied thoughts as I “descend” into the meditation. With enough time and concentration though, these thoughts start to dissipate. When I am free of distractions, I feel like I am gliding.

While I do not believe I have reached it, I imagine this is just like the feeling of enlightenment in meditation. It’s a state which we can all strive to reach.

Grounded, soothed and calm. Just like at the end of a meditation.

It was a pleasure to have been invited by the Gritti Fund to take part in this competition. We met many incredible people, and learned a lot about taking-off along the start-up runway (pun intended). While any of us put in the practice to become skilled mediators, a taste of skydiving can give us the enlightened experience.

If you would like to try some meditation exercises to break away from agitating and racing thoughts, try the exercises that we have created on the uMore app!

Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders
Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders

Alejandro is the Chief-Scientific Officer of uMore, the AI-powered mental well-being tracker.

Where Can You Find The Future of Mental Healthcare? Check Your Pockets

Where Can You Find The Future of Mental Healthcare? Check Your Pockets

If you were experiencing mental health challenges, what options would you consider for support? You may search for counselling, take medication, or you could even download an app. It’s true, there is an extensively wide range of mental health apps available to support mental health challenges. From mood trackers to chatbots, digital health companies have innovated to bring the power of modern psychology to our trouser pockets. 

Such an uptake in available apps may serve an important need, with the World Health Organisation reporting that one out of every four people worldwide will experience a mental health challenge at one point in their lives. However, is the surge in development of mental health apps the next step in the evolution of medicine and psychology, or is Silicon Valley attempting to cash in on a rapidly growing market? More importantly, as many of the apps that are already available are not backed by modern science, which ones can you trust?

We have thousands of mental health apps at our fingertips. Which ones are worthy of receiving our trust?

A History Of Mental Health Treatment

To answer these questions, let’s start by looking at the history of mental health treatment, and why online treatments are on the rise. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the field of Psychology began to display a compelling evidence-basis for psychological interventions (treatments designed to address mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression). Classic interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) gained a lot of traction in the scientific community as they began to be studied by many researchers with large samples of participants engaging with treatments suchlike CBT.

After the scientific community recognised their potential, healthcare providers such as the NHS, took to their adoption. At the time however, all of these treatments and therapies required the presence of an in-person clinician. Following the development of such face-to-face treatments, psychological research in the early 2000’s later turned to investigating guided self-help (interventions and exercises that can be completed in the user’s own time by following an instructional guide, such as with mindfulness meditations). With this came an industry-changing opportunity, to offer support to the masses without the need of a clinician to direct a psychological intervention. Most of these original guided self-help interventions were text-based, due to relatively slower internet speeds and technological limitations facing the incorporation of multimedia on more primitive computers. 

Today, now that five billion people have access to a smartphone and an internet connection, the ability to empower minds through digital interventions seems more feasible than ever. With such technological infrastructure in place, the world became ready to embrace the Smartphone Counsellor.

This now brings us to Woebot. Woebot is a living, though not entirely breathing, mental health companion. Through a chat-based setup, it uses an AI-powered bot to talk with users about their well-being, offering step-by-step guidance to improve their mental health.

A Look At Today’s Mental Health Apps

Woebot’s release marked the commencement of a paradigm shift in the capabilities of internet-based psychological interventions. By offering guidance which previously only belonged in a counsellor’s office, mental health support was democratised and made available to everyone through their own phones. Woebot takes a scientific approach to assess their service and validate its effectiveness, extending upon the research which made it possible; online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy interventions.

The question is, should digital health technologies be considered effective platforms to address mental health challenges? In theory, yes. Studies which assess the effectiveness of online psychological interventions will measure changes to symptoms before and after the intervention, as well as comparing their results to person-to-person treatments. This allows the researchers to conclude if it is ready to be appropriately delivered to people using the already well-established mental health support services currently available. In fact, many of the mental health apps on the market have indeed demonstrated this.

What should concern mental health app users, however, is that the majority of apps available on the market seem to show little to no evidence of scientific backing. Research has identified that from a sample of 1500 depression-related mental health apps, only 2% had published research assessing their effectiveness. Even the NHS, which offers a list of 14 “trusted” mental health apps which they recommend to the public, include 10 apps on the list which have no published evidence to show for their service.

Researchers have identified that the vast majority of mental health apps lack evidence to confirm their worth.

What Makes A Good Mental Health App?

Despite once seemingly going hand in hand, there is much disparity between research and development in today’s mental health app industry. It would be misleading to assume however, that science can not keep up with the pace set by technology. Publishing academic research is difficult to accomplish, as it requires experts to conduct complex studies and write articles fit for other academics. In addition to this, once results of a study are drafted and submitted to an academic journal, they are reviewed by other academics to very high standards. Studies must show robust methodology to be deemed credible, which many mental health app start-ups (without teams of psychologists) are unable to meet the demands of. This leads to such digital health companies launching their apps before implementing the necessary science to guarantee a promising level of efficacy, calling their value into question.

To make matters worse, the regulation of mental health apps is loosely defined and selective. Apps which claim to “boost mood” or to “promote happiness” often fly under the radar of the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which will only regulate apps that claim to “diagnose” and “treat” mental health challenges. In the eyes of many consumers however, the wordings surrounding both types of apps are synonymous. This results in trust often being bestowed upon apps which have shown no evidence in helping improve mental health outcomes.

So where does this leave us? What can we do to make sure that we are using mental health apps which show genuine promise of being helpful? Firstly, most websites of mental health apps will have an about section where they will detail their scientific approach to their app. With such a lack of science currently being used, having an evidence-based approach is a competitive advantage that mental health apps will want to flaunt. This should explain how they can ensure that their product is going to work for you. Secondly, when assessing mental health symptoms, apps will use different measurement questionnaires. Trusted questionnaires which capture the essence of mental health should be created and assessed by scientists. For example, Woebot measures the depression of its users using a questionnaire called the PHQ-9. uMore measures stress using the popular Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Questionnaires that have been assessed will be dubbed as being clinically “validated”. Thirdly, reliable mental health apps may have accessible research publications which assess their effectiveness. To find these, you can access Google Scholar, a free search engine for academic articles. If you type in the name of a mental health app (such as “Woebot”), you should see popular results of “pilot studies” or “feasibility trials” which have tested the appropriateness of the app.

For the apps which do offer evidence of effective mental health treatment, the promise of offering high-quality mental health support is huge. This is the case for both the app users of today and also those of tomorrow. Interestingly, research has suggested that the effectiveness of a treatment depends more on the relationship a patient has with a therapist than how the treatment is administered. While this seems to be good news for counselors offering therapy sessions over Zoom during the Coronavirus lockdown, it is also promising for digital health technologies in 2020. With a reduced ability to travel to counselors in the local area and a reported increase in anxiety and depression since lockdown, digital health technologies may pave the way to how we administer mental health interventions in the coming years.

How Can Future Technology Empower 8 Billion Minds?

Looking to the future, continued research and development of digital health technologies will unlock the potential to empower 8 billion minds by 2030. As detailed in a report by the World Economic Forum; with mindful management, digital health technologies could be scaled to support mental health challenges to anyone with internet access. With the United Nations advocating for an open, accessible and nurtured internet access made available to all, and projects like Elon Musk’s Starlink attempting to broadcast internet connectivity via satellite to the most rural of areas, ubiquitous mental health support may soon always be available.

Satellite technologies have the potential to beam Wi-fi connections across the globe. What might this mean for the adoption of mental health apps worldwide?

It is now the time for digital health technologies to develop evidence-based and ethical solutions for the mental healthcare industry. As consumers and regulators become mindful of the need for the research backing of mental health apps, digital health technologies will focus on developing apps rooted in science. A science which when paired with the rapid advancements in technology, will bring mental health support powered by modern psychology to our trouser pockets.

Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders
Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders

Alejandro is the Chief-Scientific Officer of uMore, the AI-powered mental well-being tracker.