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May 19, 2022
Will a Digital Mental Health App Be Enough For Your Employees?
Written by: Norman Winegar
We are currently experiencing a mental health crisis in the workplace. People are left feeling burnt out in unsatisfying jobs and struggling under the pressures of the effects of the ongoing pandemic. An underlying reason for this crisis is the colossal amount of stressed and overwhelmed employees who are not seeking support when they need it most. As a result, over half of Americans dealing with a mental illness do not receive proper treatment. So how can employers best support their employees with mental health struggles? Here, we’ll explore the pros and cons of mental health apps, including digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (dCBT), and whether digital apps are effective tools to help your employees.
The Future’s Digital
The aftermath of the pandemic saw workplaces making many adjustments; forcing many workers into the confinement of their homes left people feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and unable to have that genuine human interaction that we crave. As a result, there has been a steep increase in the rates of anxiety and depression among many Americans. Even before the pandemic, considerable challenges and stigma existed surrounding mental health, which negatively affected people’s willingness and ability to seek help.
As a solution, many employers have begun offering access to digital mental health apps as part of their employees’ well-being services to bridge that gap and break down barriers to care. The idea behind digital apps is that they’re easier to access than traditional face-to-face therapy. Additionally, they offer anonymity and affordability.
New mental health apps emerge each week with functionality ranging from chatting with a coach, using a mood tracker throughout the day, meditation guidance, a library of mental health resources, health challenges, and more. A recent report by Deloitte suggests as many as 20,000 mental health apps exist today! While this is an excellent stride toward recognizing mental health as a priority and breaking down the stigma, many wonder if they are as effective as traditional methods.
A Missing Factor From Digital Mental Health Apps
We know that over half of people with symptoms of mental illness do not seek help. Those who require care in managing symptoms of mental illness will only seek out help once they are aware that they need help. However, finding treatment and support for mental health issues is a significant challenge. Although 91% of Americans are covered by health insurance, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that coverage doesn’t guarantee access to mental health treatment. More than half of those enrolled in a health plan didn’t get the mental health services they needed in 2021, according to estimates from the advocacy group Mental Health America.
With the challenge of finding timely help, digital mental health apps offer immediate, short-term support until patients get the proper care they need. As a recent APA article notes, mental health apps may also lead more people to therapy. Therefore the app serves as a gateway to subsequent care.
While digital mental health apps offer immediate, short-term support, they cannot fix a toxic workplace, difficult personal circumstances, grief, or substance abuse. They also cannot replace resources for crisis intervention or serve as a substitute for professional care. Digital apps cannot consider the whole picture of someone’s life, which is a fundamental part of providing adequate mental health care and emotional support. Another downside is that due to a lack of regulation and oversight, almost anyone can release an app on app stores, so many of these might not be credible or helpful. Considering this, you may ask yourself what you can do to help your staff deal with mental health struggles. Or perhaps you’re wondering what makes a mental health app work for your business? As with any mental health service or product, no one solution will solve all problems, and an app is only one part of a larger picture of successful mental healthcare opportunities for your staff. However, with the proper support and services as part of a holistic package, a digital mental healthcare app can be a hugely important piece of the puzzle that allows more opportunities for engagement and more ways for employees to feel seen and heard.
After All, We’re Only Human
Naturally, people crave human connection. It’s hard-wired into our brains that maintaining relationships with others increases our mental well-being. When employees feel alone, depressed, and embarrassed to ask for help, we know they’re less likely to reach out. That’s why it’s vital to have intelligent tools and solutions that proactively check in with people to identify their support needs.
While a purely digital connection may be convenient, we know that a deep, trusting relationship is not something easily replicated via a digital interface. Humans respond more strongly to interpersonal influences from face-to-face connections rather than wholly or partially automated technology. Human connection is a powerful, proven method to help someone with mental health issues.
While digital mental health apps have many benefits, we know that they cannot be a substitute for talking with a counselor or receiving medical treatment. Our customers use both together, and research from 2020 suggests that mental health apps can enhance the face-to-face therapeutic process with a professional. That’s why a digital app is only part of the solution for receiving mental health support, albeit an important one. Technology can strip away geographical and accessibility barriers, but the human connection completes the mental health care experience.