Telephones and the internet have ensured greater accessibility and innovative channels for service provision in health care. Dissemination of information has become much easier and faster with the availability of internet. As of 2014, there are about 957.61 billion telephone subscribers in India, whereas the teledensity was found to be 77.07 per cent (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, 2014). According to the statistics presented by (Internet and Mobile Association of India, 2016), there are 375 million internet users despite only 28 per cent of online penetration. With technology and the web at one’s fingertips, many of us rely on it more than ever.
As per the statistics provided by the census, the prevalence of mental illnesses and disorders was found to be 8.3 per cent of the total population (Government of India, 2011). Needless to say, that the actual figures differ heavily from this representation. In India, we have 3 psychiatrists catering to a population of 1 million and even lesser psychologists (World Health Organization, 2015). The gap in service provision comes up to 50 per cent for the treatment of severe mental disorders and 90 per cent in common mental disorders (MoHFW , 2015). Given the burden of mental illnesses, it is an established fact that we don’t have enough mental health professionals to cater to the needs of those who require these services in our country.
As mental health care became a global priority, digital technology has shown promising potential in creation of newer, innovative service provision models (Patel, Saxena, & Samele, 2013) There are multiple websites, blogs, videos, e-resources, mobile based applications that offer advice, therapy, self-help tools, resources freely available for dealing with various kinds of distress. Since the internet offers widespread access to information, along with advantages of immediacy, information tailoring, and anonymity; it has become a go-to resource for people. Mobile based mental health applications and technology based solutions hold a significant place in changing the face of mental health care. Individuals commonly rely on the internet to obtain information, engage in self-help activities, and at times even for seeking help from professionals for concerns related to mental health (Baker & Ray, 2011).
The present article aims at sharing the web and technology-based resources that users could rely on. These resources were found over the internet and various web stores such as Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Multiple mental health websites and apps were tried out and assessed on various parameters such as free availability, user experience (ease, tailored, different age groups, personal profiles, progress tracker, reminders, personalised information) and efficacy of the information and techniques based on theory. All of us have experienced distress in various forms. Sometimes after an exhausting meeting or sometimes after having an unpleasant fight with a loved one or sometimes after experiencing setbacks. Here is a list of some resources that you or your loved ones could rely on;
Mobile Applications for Smartphone Users
- Depression CBT Self-Help Guide
This application has great user reviews and has been recommended by many blogs such as Healthline and PsyberGuide etc. It aims at educating users about depression and the process of understanding and coping with depression using principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Further, it provides audios based on assistance, relaxation, emotional training and mindfulness training. The application has a good combination of theory, techniques, and self-help material. The app also has a screening test available which connects users to resources if their scores indicate severe symptoms of distress. One must be mindful that these screening tests are only indicative of high levels of distress and not diagnostic tools. One of the most useful features is the cognitive diary, where you can document the thoughts, beliefs, how to challenge the irrational thoughts and beliefs along with plans and distress rating. Based heavily on the theoretical model of CBT this is a reliable app that could help a long way as a self-help resource for those in distress.
- Virtual Hope Box
Virtual Hope Box was initially created with components of a hope box with elements drawn from CBT and Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) was initially developed for veterans and military personnel in distress. Users can personalise it by setting background pictures, videos, messages or music and customized support contacts or hotlines. Further, it provides distraction pieces such as activity planner, puzzles/ word search; relaxation pieces such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided breathing; inspirational quotes and positive affirmations and lastly, coping tools like coping cards and activity planner. It’s a simple, reliable, easy to use application with great user reviews.
This application has been widely spoken about in resources related to anxiety such as Psychcentral, myhealth.net etc. Mindshift is an application that draws from CBT and has components that aim at teaching strategies for coping with anxiety. The application gives detailed, easy to understand psychoeducation on anxiety and how it works. There is a tailored component that allows users to document personal experiences feeling anxious and then gives tools to help deal with anxiety. A step ahead it allows users to engage in relaxation exercises and mindfulness strategies. Lastly, one can track their progress with a checklist that has various situations on a drop-down list. This tailor-made tool box is elaborate, extensive and based in solid theory which makes it reliable.
- Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think is an app that focuses on your emotional wellness. The app is highly interactive and neatly organized. It draws its features from the theoretical model of Mindfulness. The application gives you the theory behind how mindful, guided breathing works and how one can practice it. A different feature about this application is that it provides a great variety of customized meditation. Some of the guided meditation are related to compassion, change, kindness, body scan, gratitude etc. One of the quirkiest things is that the app rewards you with stickers. Lastly, the app allows users to track their progress which is accessible and can be looked at entire month’s progress.
- What’s Up?
This under-recognized application is a great go-to resource. One impressive thing about this CBT based application is that it has a highly elaborate array of options that allow users to practice techniques via creative exercises. The app features breathing techniques, habit and anxiety trackers, positive quotes, forums as well as few games for distraction. The personal section of the application is quite impressive. The application is highly interactive which leads to higher engagement.
Web Browser Based Resources
- Mood Juice
This brilliant website covers a whole lot of issues that one might face. Anger, Panic, Assertiveness, sleep problems, addiction, career-related concerns are some of the concerns that are listed. One great thing about this website is that it guides users in a stepwise manner to work around their concerns. Starting from psychoeducation, it leads users to self-help guides. The guides are elaborate that allow users to reflect on the impact of the issue and then leads users to the reflective section that aims at exploring the issue deeper. Once individuals develop a deeper understanding of the issue it focuses on bringing out change through various techniques. The self-help manuals are heavily guided by Cognitive Behavioral therapy. The website can be accessed here.
- You Feel Like Shit
This quirky-named interactive website is a simple lucid resource is a self-care flow-chart guide. On days when one doesn’t feel like even trying, this resource can come in handy. The user experience is so different with this website as it encourages you to keep everything aside and focus on yourself. The website just lists down various self-care strategies that help you ground yourself and feel better in times when you are feeling just a little more upset/low/sad. This website can be accessed here.
- The Quiet Place Project
Based on the theory of Mindfulness this beautiful resource is again a simple website, perfect if you are looking to just switch off from distress for a few minutes. A visit to this website is a must, as it can show what difference 15 minutes of break can do for you. The website blocks all the notifications, emails, keypad and any other distraction and engages users to relax for just 15 minutes. The quiet place project has various other forums such as the thought room, 90 seconds of relaxation exercises, the comfort spot, and the dawn room. If you are looking for a getaway this one is a click away.
Listed by Huffington Post, Soundrown is a resource with ambient sounds like rain, train, coffee shop, white noise, waves, fountains. Not only is this a great resource when trying to de-stress but even when one is hoping to lock themselves up around familiar sounds. The website lets users adjust the volume and mix different sounds. The resource is accessible here
- Weave Silk
Different than all the resources weave silk is an interactive generative art website. The website engages its users in creating illustrative patterns that drown out all the noise in one’s head. The use of colors and symmetry is an immensely relaxing experience to have. This is a resource that must be tried by everyone who spends time on the web. Silk can be accessed at this here
Each one of us faces distress at various points in our lives. Sometimes this distress can get the worst out of people. And help is just a call away. iCALL Psychosocial Helpline is a telephone and email based counselling service where professionally qualified counsellors work with you to help you work through your concerns. This is an anonymous service where one call or email and well trained, sensitized counsellors will be there for you. So, on this occasion of world mental health week, we owe it to ourselves to give our wellbeing a priority. Therefore, if you or anyone you know is experiencing distress of any kind iCALL can be reached at 022-25521111 and firstname.lastname@example.org. The helpline functions from 08:00 AM to 10:PM, Monday through Saturday. At iCALL help is available in different languages like Hindi, English, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati and Konkani.
Baker, K. D., & Ray, M. (2011). Online Counselling the Good, The Bad, and the Possibilities. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 24(04), 341-346. doi:10.1080/09515070.2011.632875
Bakker, D., Kazantzis, N., Rickwood, D., & Rickard, a. N. (2016, March 1). Mental Health Smartphone Apps: Review and Evidence-Based Recommendations for Future Developments. (G. Eysenbach, Ed.) Journal of International Medical Research – Mental Health, 3 (1)(7). doi:10.2196/mental.4984
Government Of India. (2011). Census. New Delhi: Government of India.
Internet and Mobile Association of India. (2016). India Internet and Telecommunications Report. Internet and Mobile Association of India.
MoHFW . (2015). Disability Statistics 2015. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
Patel, V., Saxena, S., & Samele, M. D. (2013). Transforming Lives, Enhancing Communities: Innovations in Mental Health. WISH, Qatar Foundation.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. (2014). Statistics 2014. TRAI.
World Health Organization. (2015, October). Mental health care in India: restoring hope and dignity. Retrieved from www.who.int: http://www.who.int/features/2015/mental-health-care-india/en/