Get help and information at your fingertips with these smartphone apps.
On January 25, the charitable campaign Bell Let's Talk Day will resume an ongoing and urgent conversation about mental health in Canada. Tracking the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, Bell Canada will donate five cents for every text, call, tweet, Instagram post, Facebook video view and, this year, they'll also be counting a Snapchat geofilter. Donations since it's inception total nearly $80 million, and the campaign is on track to raise $100 million by 2020.
The good news, thanks in part to the campaign, is that the stigma surrounding mental illness is steadily reducing, with 81 percent of people more aware of mental health issues compared to just five years ago. But for every stride made in funding research and ridding stereotypes, the stigma still exists and access to care stagnates.
The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health reports, "While mental illness accounts for about 10 percent of the burden of disease in Ontario, it receives just seven percent of healthcare dollars." This underfunding leaves Canadians suffering from mental illnesses—and their families—to bear the financial burden. This is especially troubling when Canadians in the lowest income group are three to four times more likely to report poor to fair mental health than those in the highest income group. What's more, even if you have the means to incur expenses such as therapy and counselling, you can expect a long wait, especially if you're seeking help for a child. In Ontario, for example, it's not uncommon to wait six months to one year for therapy.
Here's where the latest technology—available on your smartphone or tablet—can help. Whether you want to speak with a doctor, therapist or just explore your options, these apps put the power of obtaining mental health help and information in the palm of your hand. Here are five of our favourites.
Maven Clinic: Meet your digital health clinic. This app—specifically designed for women—allows you to speak privately with mental health specialists, as well as other healthcare professionals (such as nurse practitioners, physical therapists, nutritionists, OB/GYNs or paediatricians). You can video chat with a medical professional (appointments start at $18 and go up to $70 for a 40-minute mental health appointment) and even get a prescription. There are also free forums where you can chat with other users and ask questions.
MindShift: Young people ages 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness than any other age group. Created by Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, MindShift is designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. Some of the app's features include breathing exercises, a symptom checker to help rate your current anxiety, and steps to get you through difficult episodes or situations.
TranQool: Whether you're nervous about talking to a therapist for the first time or need more time with one, this app connects you with registered therapists and mental health professionals for a secure one-on-one session. You can match to experts (who focus on teaching cognitive behavioural therapy) based on preference, and can feel safe knowing the video chat is secure and never recorded. TranQool is currently only available in Ontario but the app is planning to launch in other provinces across Canada.
Akira: Founders Dustin Walper and Dr. Taha Bandukwala had a vision to rethink the way healthcare works here and around the world. Akira heralds itself as the "doctor in your pocket" and connects you with doctors and nurse practitioners via your smartphone. The app allows you to speak to a professional who can refer you to specialists, prescribe or renew prescriptions and suggest community resources that might be helpful for you.
TalkSpace: This app allows you to privately talk to a licensed therapist nearly any time of day from your smartphone or tablet. TalkSpace also offers couples therapy and a new Social Media Dependency Therapy, a 12-week program to better understand and manage social media's impact on mental health. With more than 1,000 therapists available, you can receive quick, anonymous, accurate help and information from a trusted professional.
While these apps are good alternatives to seeking help or information about mental illness, they may not be equipped to deal with crisis situations. If you are in a crisis situation, call 911 or go to your local hospital.