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Behavioral health is not usually the first thing I think of when I hear the word “hygiene.”
First of all, as the father of teenagers, the word hygiene usually conjures up something associated with a lack of showering and socks worn way past their intended use. Hygiene used to be the polite name for sex education classes in middle school. It is something that is often referred to when describing living conditions in lesser-developed countries. So when was the last time you heard someone use that word in reference to mental health?
Here in New York, although we tend to abbreviate it simply as “DOH,” that part of the municipal government is officially the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Even the City of New York seems to gloss over that part of the department’s name. On their website, although the full name is spelled out across the top, there are no selections available for a “mental hygiene” section, but there is a big one for Mental and Behavioral Health.
Is mental hygiene needed by those of us with dirty minds? Pardon the pun, but why have we cleansed our language of that particular phrase? (Okay – don’t pardon the pun. It was intentional.) That was the first thought that occurred to me as I passed a city van yesterday from that particular agency and was reminded of what the acronym NYCDOHMH stands for. My second thought, however, was that just as NYC has grouped medical and mental health together under one roof, has the mobile health industry also addressed that segment adequately?
There is growing correlation between medical and behavioral health treatment and the impact they have on each other. Yet most of the mobile health apps I tend to learn about address medical conditions and physical wellness. We know that the Internet has provided a voice for those who may be challenged by social situations. So what has been done to provide mobile health tools for those with conditions diagnosed via the DSM rather than the ICD?
It turns out, there’s a lot. Not surprisingly, there are many tools that were developed for or by the Department of Defense. Members of the Armed Forces spend significant time in stressful situations that can impact how they function while serving on active duty as well as afterwards, as experienced through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Being able to stay healthy mentally and emotionally is critical to their performance and, in turn, their safety and the safety of those around them. Constantly on the move, mobile mental and behavioral health tools are well suited for this segment of the population.
But mobile mental and behavioral health tools may serve a more critical need. With access to mental health professionals still more limited than access to medical professionals, and with stigma sadly still associated with mental disease, mobile health tools can bring treatment to a greater number of people when and where they want it. And making use of the full capabilities of a mobile platform, people are able to use biometrics for input and feedback with many of these tools. Medication compliance can also be fostered with the use of mobile health tools.
Whether it’s a stress management tool, a biofeedback monitor or simply an app that helps address depression by taking you directly to funny cat videos, we can all use a little help feeling better emotionally and mentally. Let’s get that help – and get it to others – regardless of location.
The views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.
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