May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And while recommending somebody spend more time on their phone for their mental well-being seems counterintuitive, that’s exactly what this article intends to do. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should mindlessly scroll social media for hours (be honest—you’re already doing that). Instead, try checking out some of the latest, greatest, and affordable apps geared toward supporting mental health.
What Are Mental Health Apps?
At a high level, mental health apps are pretty much exactly what they sound like: mobile apps (although they’re also frequently available on desktop platforms) designed to improve mental well-being. They most commonly address depression and anxiety, but some apps tackle deeper issues like schizophrenia, PTSD and eating disorders. While each app has its own differences, they generally all offer some type of therapy or counseling, activities or assignments, mood-tracking and meditation.
Do Mental Health Apps Work?
While an app isn’t a replacement for therapy, it may help bridge the gap for patients, given that globally the majority of those who need mental health care worldwide lack access to it. But because the technology is relatively new, and research doesn’t yet have one specific scientific methodology to study it with, there isn’t enough data to say how well mental health apps are working.
However, the actual design, content and capabilities of the apps have been shown to have significant potential to deliver high-efficacy mental health interventions, according to a 2018 study.
Top Mental Health Apps
From anxiety trackers to on-the-go CBT therapy (a type of cognitive therapy where the patient recognizes underlying thought patterns), there are loads of options in the list below.
Talkspace is the number one rated online therapy app, with individual, couples, teens and psychiatric support available. After a brief online assessment, simply pick from a provider list and start your somewhat traditional online therapy journey. The best part? Talkspace offers video, phone and messaging options, so you can choose which therapy option feels most comfortable for you in the moment. Talkspace charges a monthly subscription fee, but they do accept a variety of insurance types and have frequent discount codes.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, Calm might be the right pick for you. The sleep and meditation app has Sleep Stories (think bedtime stories for adults), and a huge library of meditations on topics ranging from mindfulness at work to calming anxiety. They also feature everybody’s favorite—soundscapes—and an ever-growing playlist of music designed to help you focus and flow. Calm offers a free version but also has a paid subscription with more features.
3. PTSD Coach
In 2011, the U.S. Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD released PTSD Coach, a free app made to help people identify and manage symptoms of the trauma-based disorder. Users can access direct links to support, tools for screening and tracking symptoms, and professional information about effective PTSD treatments. There’s also an expanded desktop version available with extra tools for stress and anger management.
For those suffering from bipolar I and II, anxiety, PTSD and depression, tracking your moods is a helpful tool in your mental health arsenal. The free app eMoods allows users to easily track their thoughts and feelings, moods and medications, and it even creates a detailed calendar to help them see patterns over time. There’s also configurable graphs, email reports, member interaction, and customizable SMS and email reminders. The information is also printable so it can be shared with a therapist or doctor.
5. CPT Coach
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a mental health app, CPT Coach, designed to support people participating in Cognitive Processing Therapy (otherwise known as CPT). CPT is a behavioral therapy designed to help reduce symptoms of PTSD. The (free!) app provides an entire course-worth of CPT materials, including worksheets, readings, and assignments for in between sessions.
Developed in 2016, Youper is a health care app that combines digital therapy, remote monitoring, medication delivery, labs and more in one streamlined platform. Starting at $3 a month, folks dealing with postpartum depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and other emergency situations can utilize Youper—no insurance or prescription required. The main method of therapy utilized on Youper is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), a popular treatment for anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
7. TalkLife: Mental Health Support Network
TalkLife is the world’s largest (free) global peer support network for mental health. It’s an anonymous, judgment-free zone where users can receive or offer support to one another: whether it’s for depression, anxiety, self-harm or other mental health issues. If you’re of college age, check out TalkCampus, a partner app that’s designed for students. (If your college isn’t already utilizing the app, you can fill out a form on the TalkLife website to register interest.)
8. Daylio Journal
Daylio is the perfect app for people who want to write in a journal but can never seem to stay committed. This self-care bullet journal features goal setting, a mood diary and happiness tracker, all without the user having to actually write anything. In fact, a daily entry only requires two taps—your mood and your activity—and the rest of the features (yearly stats, monthly goals, reminders and custom color themes) are totally optional. Daylio is free but does offer in-app purchases.
9. Ten Percent Happier
Not to be confused with the book of the same name, Ten Percent Happier is a paid meditation app that features high-quality lessons by respected meditation teachers. It includes meditations for specific stressful occasions (like the holidays), a robust “sleep” section, plus podcasts and introductory videos for the newbies. While the app is slightly more expensive than the others on the list, it’s a great choice for somebody looking to increase their knowledge on the practice of meditation as a whole.
WorryWatch is a free app that provides mood tracking, guided coping techniques, an anxiety journal, and positive affirmations and quotes to its users. The app is simple and user-friendly, only requiring a person to track the event, date and whatever may have happened that day. Then all of that data goes in a helpful chart that shows over time how your anxiety has changed. One of the best features of WorryWatch? You don’t need an Internet connection to use it.
If you’re looking for a more gamified approach to mental health, Happify might be a good app to add to your arsenal. After answering some basic questions about your current life and state of happiness, the app provides you with recommended courses that feature games, activities and a digital coach. It also rates your “happiness score” before and after the courses to see how it’s improved. Happify offers free and paid features, and the ability to opt in or out of their community component.
Even if you’ve never meditated a day in your life, you’ve likely heard of Headspace. The super popular meditation app features hundreds of meditations for sleep, energy, happiness, grief and anger, plus extensive courses for intro and mid-level meditators. While it is a subscription-based app, there are still daily meditations available for free, plus a very educational (and frequently updated) blog.
Become a Certified Health Coach
Want to learn more about the role mental health plays in overall wellness? Join HCI’s Become a Health and Life Coach program to learn about health, wellness, diet and nutrition. For those looking to make a career shift, you can begin coaching in as little as six months. If you’re already a coach and want to advance your skills, check out HCI’s Coach Mastery program. Feel free to get in touch with one of our clarity coaches directly by calling 1-800-303-2399.