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How To Build A Mental Health App

Let’s face it. There is a global mental health crisis and it’s been brewing for years. Hectic lifestyles, poor work-life balance, financial stresses, and general exhaustion has become a recipe for disaster and resulted in a serious decline in our collective mental health.

This decline started long before the COVID 19 pandemic struck, but the effects of the pandemic have undoubtedly exacerbated an already dire situation. As an increasing number of people struggle with their mental health, e-mental healthcare services are on the rise.

To meet the new demands for mental healthcare services, a huge number of mental health, coaching, and mindfulness apps have hit the market. The need to digitalise healthcare services is huge and allows providers to become more accessible, reduce the workload of therapists, and offer more consistent support to those in need.

So, there’s no doubt that the demand is there, but how exactly do you go about building a mental health app? Let’s take a closer look.

1.   Choose the Type of App you Want

Mental health is a broad term that encompasses a diverse range of topics. There are apps for specific or niche issues or general self-development and mindfulness apps. The first phase of building your own mental health app is defining the type of app you want to deliver. Common types include:

  • Meditation & Mindfulness apps
  • Self-Development apps
  • Apps for Addiction Recovery
  • Apps for Eating Disorder Recovery
  • Anxiety, Depression & Mood Tracking apps
  • Apps for Specific Mental Disorders eg. OCD or ADHD

2.   Define the Features

Depending on the type of mental health app you want to build, your next goal is to establish the key features your app should have. In the third step, you will build on this list with the help of a team of tech experts who can guide you on the best features for your app. However, it’s always a good idea to list the basic features your app simply must have.

Here are a few common examples to give you some inspiration:

  • On-demand video and audio content

On-demand video or audio content such as therapeutic videos, guided meditation audios, or motivational videos can be invaluable for users. Let’s say they feel a panic attack coming on or notice they are falling into a depressive downwards spiral. Immediate access to video content can help to ground them, manage the symptoms they are experiencing, and apply healthy coping mechanisms.

  • Urgent mental health assistance

For some types of mental health apps, urgent assistance may be required. If patients need to speak to someone in an emergency situation, your app can gove access to emergency services (112 or 911), a live chat or support line where they can speak to trained mental health professionals, or even just a direct way to contact a loved one through the app.

  • Forums & Community Chats

Many people suffering from mental health issues often feel alone. Incorporating forums and community chat areas shows users that they aren’t alone and that lots of other people feel the same way. Adding a forum to your app allows users to chat anonymously with others and join a community. You can even add audio chats (like those used by the Clubhouse app) for an even more personal feel.

  • Push notifications

Push notifications send users reminders about specific daily tasks that they should do as part of their quest for self-improvement. They can act as motivational messages to build self-esteem and highlight progress. By sending gentle reminders and encouraging messages, your app helps users to keep going with their journey and find success.

  • Gamification features

Certain mental health apps such as self-improvement or meditation apps can benefit dramatically from the use of gamification features such as achievements and rewards, leaderboards, points systems, and tiers. Gamification engages and motivates them.

Having said that, this doesn’t apply to every type of mental health app. Medical mental health apps designed to help patients with mental health disorders should be incredibly mindful when using gamification features. They can actually frustrate and demotivate users suffering from severe depression, OCD, or other mental illnesses.

  • Security and Compliance

Security is key when it comes to mental health apps. That’s why it’s important to prioritise security features such as multi-factor authentication (fingerprints, one-time passcodes, security tokens etc,) and end-to-end encryption for maximum security and compliance with data protection regulations.

3.   Pick a Tech Partner

This is where everything comes together. Developing an app without the support of a tech partner is a tough undergoing. That’s why most people choose to work with a team of tech experts to ensure their vision becomes a reality.

Let’s say you want to develop a mindfulness app. Teaming with a Mindfulness app development company will give you the full support you need from the pre-product stage (designing the app) right through to the release. This team of experts will be able to guide you through the process, offer solutions to tech challenges, and give you their full range of expertise at every stage of the process.

Think of them as your co-pilot, collaborating closely with you to create a product with optimal UX, high-end development, and your unique stamp.

4.   Test and Tweak

Apps need to be tested and undergo an extensive QA phase. Especially those developed to improve mental health. Apps are usually built using an agile development method. This entails designing, developing, and testing the product. The timeline for the development depends on the size of the development team, the complexity of the app design, and the number of third-party integrations involved.

To give a ballpark estimate, the Stormotion team took twenty-five weeks to complete the agile development phase when building ‘Feel Amazing’, a self-development app dreamed up by Ailsa Frank, a British hypnotherapist and motivational keynote speaker.

During the testing phase, you will work with your app development partner to test drive your app, pick up on any issues or improvements, and make the necessary tweaks.

At this point, you have a clear idea of what the finished product will look like and how it will feel for users. Once the testing phase is complete, it’s time to release your app and complete the handover. The handover simply means that your tech partner of choice will gradually hand the reins over to you to manage the day-to-day running of your app.


Final Thoughts

Mental health apps look set to continue their rise. They give users essential tools to keep tabs on their emotional wellbeing and manage their symptoms at any time or place. If you want to build your very own mental health app from scratch, all you need is a great idea and a reliable tech partner to develop your idea and bring it to market.

Image Source: Pixabay