Asking for help is never easy. It’s especially difficult when you suffer from a mental illness because of the stigma that is attached to it. There are a number of factors that deter people from reaching out for help, that can include anything from shame, to fear of being institutionalized or hospitalized against their wishes, to being judged or unsupported by those around them, to simply not wanting to say what they’re going through because it makes their struggles that much more real. Mental illness, and especially depression or suicidality, come with the incredible burden of unnerving isolation. The loneliness in our minds, existing because of a great wall built by our depression, makes us retreat further into our minds, much like a hermit crab does when they fear for their safety. The next question posed is, how do we help people who cannot come and ask for help, or make it known that they need help? There is a great deal of work that needs to be done in this area, but I must say that the emergence of not only websites or virtual resources, but smartphone apps especially, have made it much easier for those who need help to seek it out.
There are hundreds of free mental health apps for smartphones, and even more for iPhones. These apps can do anything from depression screening tests, to teaching anti-anxiety tests, to providing a social media type platform for people to not feel so alone as they suffer. Popular apps such as Six Billion Secrets and Whisper have also become an outlet for people to express their secret struggles with anything, including mental illness, and provide resources to people who may be in danger. Relaxation excercises, happiness apps, and depression coping skills are all among the features of many of these apps. The Trevor Project, an initiative geared towards helping LGBT youth handle the struggles of coming out or being in the closet, has an app consisting of videos of celebrities and other people discussing how “It gets better”.Some apps are specific to certain regions of the world, providing access to crisis centres and help lines, while others provide free virtual self help coaching. Similar to how calorie tracker apps work, there are apps to monitor your mood, which then analyze the times of day that a person experiences their lowest mood. (more…)