Text Messaging Better than Mobile Apps in Treatment of Mental Illness

Texting is a more suitable technology treatment platform for those with mental health disorders than mobile apps.

That is the conclusion of a new study by researchers from Clemson University, Indiana University, and the Centerstone Research Institute. The study was published in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing.

Researchers surveyed 325 patients currently receiving treatment at community-based outpatient clinics for mental illness to determine their cell phone ownership and usage patterns.

Nearly 80 percent of the patients surveyed used texting and many did not use mobile apps, indicating that texting may be accessible to the majority of patients and may therefore make a more feasible treatment aid.

"Among mental health patients, we found that texting was the most popular feature used and downloading apps was the least popular," said Kelly Caine, assistant professor in Clemson University's School of Computing.

In addition, participants who already were comfortable with texting also reported that they were comfortable with the concept of texting their mental health provider, suggesting that texting may be an appropriate feature for mobile health interventions.

"By utilizing a technology that is readily available and familiar to so many Americans, we see huge potential to improve treatment outcomes and provide patients who currently have only limited access to treatment additional treatment options," said Caine.

The survey results showed that cell phone ownership among these mental health patients was comparable with ownership among a nationally representative, non-patient sample, with the exception that more patients than non-patients shared their mobile phones, which makes providing private, secure messages difficult

“Cell phone technology is in the hands of millions of Americans and early research indicates that this technology can be useful to help Americans who are suffering from some form of mental illness,” Caine added.

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