October is Mental Health Awareness Month

Last year Australians spent an average of 10 hours per day using their digital devices for social media, online shopping and cat videos.  It is estimated that you will touch your phone more than 150 times in 24 hours and spend over 2 hours per day on social media.

Smiling Mind has launched #find10 minutes, encouraging us to re-invest these minutes into your mental wellbeing. A new app program with Virgin Mobile has also been launched designed to help switch-off from your digital devices during the day, when at home or before bed, Digital Detox.

Smiling Mind also has a free guided meditation app for adults and children to provide the tools needed for a healthy mind using ten minutes daily.

Australia's mental health reform plan includes a large investment in online mental health services. It has been suggested that the sensors that can track behaviors such as our internet search and browse history, where we go , the music we listen to and who we speak to could be used to give insight into patterns that may indicate the need for support and the use of health diaries may enable monitoring chronic conditions.

Increasing numbers of smartphone apps available that reference mental health or depression. The CSIRO recently published research into the various Australian smartphone apps, where a web crawler was used  to find reviews ( 35,000) of the approximately 16,000 available apps in the Android and Apple stores .

The most popular apps include self-help guides, tests for depression and mood diaries with average rating scores of 4.4 out of 5 stars. Improving sleep was the most frequent comments, followed by relaxation, tracking mood symptoms and helping to reduce stress and anxiety. The positive response to tracking of measures such as mood, medication and symptoms supports the suggestion that inclusion of monitoring through tracking internet history, movements and music selection could be further incorporated into future mental health support apps.

Although the descriptions of the filtered apps included the keyword "depression," only 2.5% of the reviews specifically mentioned that the app helped with depression. Symptoms known to be associated with depression improved, which may have helped the overall mood disorder. These same symptoms have been associated with mental wellbeing without illness , and some apps may be useful in preventing the development of a more chronic illness.

Of concern, a very small number of apps draw on evidence-based therapies and support, or have undergone rigorous testing to indicate benefit and not harm.

Smartphones have become access points for mental health support and therapy aids, and current proposals are for further use in assessment, triage and even therapy. Whether consumers want this development and whether it would meet needs without causing harm has not been answered and require further full collaboration between the community, medical professionals and app developers.

To find accredited and tested Australian smartphone apps use mindhealthconnect, the web portal providing access on behalf of Healthdirect Australia and the Australian Government who provide the funding .


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