Mental Health Apps for Expats
Did you know there’s over 10,000 apps specifically developed to improve mental health? From depression to schizophrenia, there’s an app for it. If you’ve relocated or have barriers to accessing a therapist, an app may be the answer.
How can I choose an app that gets the expat or immigrant experience?
While I haven’t found mental health apps specifically targeted towards the expat, immigrant or relocation experience, there are many other apps that can help. The consequences of transition, be it low mood, increased anxiety, insomnia, or loneliness, are all impacts that you can address with the help of technology.
What are the benefits for expats?
Many expats can’t access public mental health services (assuming they exists) and don’t have insurance coverage. Access gets harder if you can’t find a therapist that speaks your native language. Finally, even if you do find a therapist in your chosen language, there can be cultural differences in expectations for therapy. For example, if you’re from the USA you may make a false assumption that a licensed psychologist in Mexico is like a licensed psychologist in the USA, adheres to a code of ethics, maintains privacy, or will remain neutral on topics of religion or ethics. While psychologists in Mexico may choose to do these things, it’s not necessarily a part of their training and it’s certainly not a requirement for practice.
What are the drawbacks of mental health apps?
Apps require self-motivation and discipline. This is particularly problematic for people experiencing fatigue, hopelessness, or helplessness, as is common with depression. But if you’re motivated and can be self-directed, then there’s no reason an app can’t assist you.
An undeniably major drawback of apps is the lack of regulation. The most common misconception is that these apps are developed with the same standard you may expect from a mental health provider. They are not. The majority have no supporting scientific literature to support their claims of efficacy. Apps may receive high rankings on online app stores due to their marketing prowess alone. But don’t lose hope…
How should I choose an app?
We recommend PsyberGuide (https://onemindpsyberguide.org). This service reviews the many mental health apps on the market and gives each of them a score of creditability, in other words, does it do what it claims to do and how strong is the scientific evidence to back it? It also rates user experience and the apps transparency regarding your privacy.
Some apps we love include:
· Happify: For Stress and Worry
· Headspace: Mindfulness meditation to improve mood, concentration and productivity
· Beating the Blues: Depression and anxiety
· Calm: Sleep more. Stress less. Live better.
· Cognitive Enhancement Therapy: Chronic psychotic conditions
Finally, you don’t need to choose between an app or a therapist. Working with a therapist while working through an app will only enhance the benefits of each. Make sure you bring your reflections and questions to session to get the most out of it.