It may sound a little far-fetched at first, but if you think about it, it does kind of make sense. A lot of people these days are tied to their cell phones. Whether it’s due to work or personal reasons, most of us don’t like to be without them, and now an Australian-led research company has found a way to use that to help treat people with depression.

Depression is a rising mental health issue affecting millions of people worldwide. Mental health charities and services are struggling with the demand for treatment and hence why research is being conducted to find alternative treatments. One new treatment option to come about has done so with thanks to researchers over at Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Harvard Medical School, The University of Manchester, and the Black Dog Institute in Australia and focuses on treatments via smartphones.

During the study, researchers looked into trials that examined a total of 22 different smartphone delivered metal health treatments between them. More than 3400 male and female candidates took part with an age range of 18-59. They also had a range of mental health symptoms and conditions which included mild depression, severe depression, anxiety, bipolar, and insomnia. Results from the study found that people’s depressive symptoms reduced significantly after interacting with smartphone apps in general.

This is exciting news and could pave the way for a whole new wave of depression treatments that can be delivered via smartphones. Not only is it a modern way to help people, it gives those that may not otherwise have access to treatment, a chance to get the help they need. “The majority of people in developed countries own smartphones, including younger people who are increasingly affected by depression,” said Joseph Firth, lead author of the paper and NICM postdoctorate research fellow. “Combined with the rapid technological advances in this area, these devices may ultimately be capable of providing instantly accessible and highly effective treatments for depression, reducing the societal and economic burden of this condition worldwide.”

“Using apps as part of an ‘integrative medicine’ approach for depression has been demonstrated to be particularly useful for improving mood and tackling symptoms in these patients,” confirmed Professor Jerome Sarris, co-author of the study and NICM deputy director. As to who the apps may be best for, the results suggested those suffering with mild to moderate depression may benefit best from this type of treatment as using it to treat major depression hasn’t been widely studied yet.

What the researchers also discovered during the study was that self-contained apps that didn’t rely on other aspects, such as the clinician or computer feedback, were found to be more effective than those that were non-self-contained. They suggested this may be due to the complexity of the stand-alone app opposed to the combination of therapies. But, as of yet, there is still no concrete proof which says that using apps alone can reduce the need for antidepressant medication or outperform standard conventional therapies.  Nevertheless, it’s still a step in the right direction and shows promise in using smartphones to treat depression.

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