The Grapevine

Mental Health Apps, Chatbots See Surge In Usage Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

The rapidly changing scenario regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus has stressed out people, both old and young, who are filled with anxiety and fear about how the pandemic will unfold. Restrictions on social gatherings and stepping out have made it worse for people since self-quarantining is having a deeper psychological impact on them. 

Emotions range from anger, hopelessness, frustration to loneliness and depression. Recognizing that people need mental health assistance in this global medical emergency, a few apps have rendered their services free. 

Headspace, an app used by consumers in 190 odd countries, is offering usage free of cost to help healthcare professionals bearing the brunt of the catastrophic situation. Generally, the app costs $12.99 per month. Now, its recently added content called "Weathering The Storm" includes new meditation and sleep exercises, which is completely free along with the rest of the app. 

Another app geared towards mindfulness, Simple Habit is also offering membership without payment for people who are dealing with financial hardships and are not able to afford necessary psychological help right now. 

Talkspace, a service that provides access to therapists online, reports the number of people utilizing the app has grown by 25 percent since mid-February. Traffic has seen a huge spurt, the app’s Talkspace Chief Medical Officer Neil Leibowitz confirmed. 

Majority of their new clients have worries related to the coronavirus, such as how working from home would pan out for them in the long run and the health implications of contracting the virus. Users of BetterHelp seeking solace in the crisis situation have doubled over the last two months too.  

Crisis Text Line, a popular chatbot is seeing an increase in the number of messages received by the app by 116 percent since March 16. However, the app does not connect users to licensed psychologists, but only to counselors who are volunteers. 

Do the apps really help?

Chatbots are only a poor compensation for real human connection from people who can empathize, be a sounding board and provide feedback when needed. However, writing out disturbing thoughts on a text message could help provide some comfort. It could slow down fast-paced anxiety ridden thoughts.

Several users in the past have reported that mental health apps are not that helpful in sorting out issues. Talkspace was under fire in 2016 for not having a mechanism to report emergencies and other patient-related concerns. 

coronavirus quarantine People are turning to various mental health apps as they are experiencing anxiety during the quarantine. Pixabay

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