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Mental health mobile apps: a guide to asking the right questions

Illustration: Julie K.

This article was translated by Jessica Dutse, many thanks to her!


Update September 19th, 2019: The link where you can donate to Insane to enable us to get a Medappcare certification application was added.

End of update


If you are among the 3.2 billion people worldwide who own a smartphone, you have probably already downloaded mobile apps... and of which, some might be aimed at improving your mental health: Headspace, Moodpath, Betterhelp etc. are some of the more than 10,000 examples that could be counted in 2018. How sure are you of their relevance though, and above all, of their reliability?


User health data is sensitive: depending on the app, such data could be anonymized and aggregated to obtain statistics, stored in the app in order to further customize its services -- or be sold to other companies for targeted advertising and/or for customer information collection purposes. It's easy to imagine how rapidly that could turn into the dystopian stories I personally love.

So, before you panic and immediately start uninstalling all your mobile apps, some of which may be very beneficial to you, this is an opportunity to look a little further into these apps to decide which ones really deserve to take up your smartphone’s memory.


You might not know exactly what to look for: this is why the American Psychiatric Association, an organization with a high level of expertise on the subject, has put up an evaluative questionnaire online (you will find further information on this questionnaire right here). The questionnaire is of course not subject to copyright, so don't hesitate to share it with the rest of the world! The icing on the cake: you will notice that the questions are relevant for all mobile apps...


Not everyone uses a mental health mobile app, and there are many websites and e-learning courses on the topic. To ensure their relevance and that your data is secure, the idea remains essentially the same: check which data is collected, where the information provided comes from, how it is financed...

The result will probably not be totally black and white: certain criteria will be more important to you than others, and you may not make the same choices as someone else. The most important thing is for you to you remain able to use mobile apps with ease and confidence, making sure they are really beneficial, and that you be able to look for alternatives if necessary.


Moreover, if you have any doubts, read Insane... You will find abundant information on how to improve your well-being, as well as that of your loved ones. We do not collect your data to sell it! Insane has also begun the process of obtaining a Medappcare certification. Since it's very expensive (certifications are no joke), and Insane can only apply thanks to your donations, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation here!

Doctors Without Borders or Psychiatry venturing into terra incognita
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