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mental health mondays :: there's an app for that

you mean there's an app to cure my crazy? well, no. but there are lots of apps available for those who are concerned about their mental well-being and so i've decided to take a look at some of them for mhm. after all, visits to your doctor and/ or psychiatric professional can be pretty few and far between. you need something to help you during the days, weeks and months in between.

because i'm an iphone user, i can only guarantee that the apps i look at are available for that platform, but i think that developers are now taking into consideration the needs of android and blackberry customers. if you have any experiences you'd like to share, comments are highly encouraged.

first off, by way of introduction, i wanted to give my own thoughts on what mental health apps can do. clearly, they are no substitute for professional help. but can they still be helpful? i think so. many seem to offer an orderly, well-structured way to track progress [or the lack of it] with mental illness. simplifying this process for people whose condition can cause them to be forgetful, erratic and inconsistent is a phenomenal idea. some apps connect the user to support groups, which offers a level of convenience greater than that of chat forums, because it is designed for mobile technology. others offer assistance with adjunct activities- relaxation, breathing exercises, etc- that can help control anxiety and depression. all of these are very useful, especially for the most prevalent mental illnesses.

of course, there are charlatans. i'm wary of anything that purports to "cure" a mental illness and i would insist that anything that offers help in treating these conditions be able to furnish credentials that show it is based on a method that has been independently tested.

you may want to have a look at psych central's list of best apps. all of these have been professionally vetted. the unfortunate part is that almost all of them cost money. there aren't even free versions available for a user to try. you might argue that if a person can afford a smart phone and data plan to begin with, a few bucks for an app isn't that big a deal and that's probably right. but for the purposes of testing them out, i'd at least like to look at what's out there for cheapskates like me before i start dishing out cash money.

the app i've chosen to review first, is simply called "psych drugs". there's a free version and a paid version [$2.99usd cost] which doesn't have ads. it's a straightforward guide to psychiatric drugs, as you might have guessed, for those who might be curious about what they're being given or what options might be open to them.

each listing gives brand and generic names, indications, drug type, maximum dosage for adults and children and side effects. you can create a "favourites" list, which for most people is probably going to be a list of what they've been prescribed. 

pros ::

there are a lot of drugs listed. i tried "fooling" it by searching out older or less often prescribed drugs, but there wasn't one that it didn't have. it does not list drugs that have not been approved for treating mental disorders, but that's pretty understandable.

all drugs are listed by both their brand and generic names, so you can search either. this is a godsend, because having to remember two names for every drug you take or want to look up is confusing as hell.

presentation is incredibly uniform and very straightforward. you don't have to read through a lot of text to find out what you want to know.

cons ::

the search function only works alphabetically. being able to search by drug type, so you could see what options were available as alternates for something you're currently taking. it would also make the app more user-friendly for people who don't know much about the field. to properly search, you need to know some names, so this could never be a starting point. 

there's no distinction made in the "side effects" section of which ones are common versus which ones are rare. without this, the side effects for everything look kind of horrifying. it would be helpful to know what you can expect versus what is a remote possibility.

when i tried tapping the side bar to zoom to a specific letter, 4 times out of 5, it didn't work. i had to scroll to the letter i wanted. it's possible that this is just me, but i'm using a phone that's about two weeks old, so it's not like there's likely to have been a lot of wear and tear that could be causing issues. 

not exactly a con per se, but there's little incentive to shell out for the paid version. the only difference seems to be that the paid version doesn't have ads, but the ads that appear in the free version are limited to the upper part of the screen and are quite unobtrusive. i think that the paid version could command a higher price if it offered things like the ability to compare drugs, the possibility of tracking your own progress and side effects on a specific drug or more advanced search options.

bottom line :: if you know a little bit about psychiatric drugs and are curious to know more, this is a decent basic app. it gives you the basics on a comprehensive list of drugs and will let you know what exactly has been prescribed to you. it'll also let you know all the things that could happen to you from taking these drugs. it's not going to provide much more than the basics, but for a free app, the price is right.

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