How to Create a Mental Health App and Succeed: The 2022 Guide

26 Jul 2022

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Supporting mental health has become more critical in today's world than in decades past, primarily due to the intense impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people's emotional well-being. Unfortunately, offline clinics and doctors aren't always available. And this is where digital solutions for mental health and telecare come into play. Mental health app development makes treatment more manageable and effective. Having a 24/7 online therapist or support within smartphones is an increasingly popular option among users globally.

Keep reading this article to know how to make a mental health app, its benefits for businesses, features to implement, challenges and ways of solving, and cost.

What Is the Potential of Mental Health App Development: Statistics Overview

The global mental health market is projected to reach $537.97 billion by 2030. Mental health problems affect over one billion people world­wide annually, with depression taking a leading position. For example, over 40 million American adults are exposed to depression and anxiety disorders. Nearly 75% of people with mental illness receive no treatment in high- and middle-income economies.

Many can’t afford in-office treatment due to prejudices against people with psychological disorders or having hard access to clinical therapy. This raises the need for safe, accessible, and effective treatment. On the other hand, emotionally healthy people are eager to enjoy life on a satisfying level by developing good habits and cultivating positive thinking.

Why Do Create Mental Health Apps?

Post-pandemic reality continues forcing people towards a mental health crisis. Therefore, people worldwide who deal with depression, stress, or other psychological concerns merit attention and treatment. Let's look into people who’re employed. The era of COVID has disrupted the work-life balance and decreased social interactions, making employees feel lonely and disengaged with their jobs. According to the report, nearly 46% of respondents interviewed in 2020 were afflicted with mental health issues, compared to 39% a year before. More than 50 percent of those surveyed indicated that emotional health problems have regressed since the pandemic began.

Global mantal health market

Mental wellness market share worldwide

It's been two years since the pandemic’s start, yet there is an increasing prevalence of depression and anxiety. The U.S Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of adults with similar disorders continues to grow, rising from 36.4% to 41.5% as of February 2021. The latest study shows that about 50 percent of adults state the symptoms of depression and anxiety. A spike in downloads of mental wellness apps (even after the pandemic peak) demonstrates people’s need for such telehealth solutions. For example, Calm, a well-known meditation app, hit over 100 million downloads in 2021. According to Statista, users’ spending on mental health apps is expected to reach $491 million by the end of 2022 compared to $372 million in 2021.

Above all, this growth is driven by more people to consider virtual therapy an excellent alternative to traditional treatment due to its convenience and anonymity. In addition, telemedicine software development allows for delivering on-demand and personalized care, supporting the adoption of wellness management apps. Apart from market potential and rapid undertaking of digital health technology, there are also significant advantages of creating a mental health app for business owners.

Benefits of Mental Health App Development for Businesses

Apart from market potential and rapid undertaking of digital health technology, there are also significant advantages of creating a mental health app for business owners.

Efficiency of App-Based Interventions

Mobile devices enable treatment at a distance. Therefore, you should learn how to develop a mental health app because it helps expand the care delivery coverage. For example, if there are no clinics nearby, it’s enough to have an app, cellular network, or Wi-Fi. However, the recommendations and treatment should be up-to-date and confirmed by evidence to guarantee the product's efficiency.

Immediate Access to Mental Healthcare

Considering the high mobile phone penetration rate, caregivers can reach any location to supply mental health therapy. In-home treatment for mental conditions like stress, bipolar, anxiety, eating disorders, etc., is comfortable and productive. Moreover, remote patient monitoring can also save time and money by preventing the need for in-person visits. Clinics get higher client flow, and the consultation process becomes faster. Thus, medical institutions can earn more revenue in the short term.

Improved Treatment Quality

Even if your mental wellness app doesn't involve holistic treatment (e.g., self-management or meditation apps), it's a valuable instrument for patients' data collection and monitoring. Often, medical consultants advise clients to employ such applications. Later, the care team can scrutinize the records and adjust the treatment plan.

Have a read on how healthcare CRM software development will help you improve patient management

Effective Promotional Tool

Creating a mental health app gives you a powerful tool for your service/product promotion. Featuring the push-notification system, you can inform customers about their consultations, reports, and medicine prescribed, as well as send special offers, news, and promotions. Doing so can convert a one-off user into a loyal customer.

Increased Patient Satisfaction Rate

Those who are experiencing the coronavirus for the first time are distressed. Many people have described mental distress and depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress symptoms. Mental wellness apps are considered practical tools for coping with post-pandemic syndrome. Such solutions cover many medical tasks from tracking mental conditions to appointment scheduling and receiving prescription refills. In addition, today's uncertainty is another reason to develop a mental health app from scratch.

Note: To make the most out of mental health app development, it’s vital to cooperate with a competent IT vendor with hands-on experience in custom healthcare software development services.

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Cleveroad team will help you plan, develop and implement mental health app tailored to your needs

As you’ve noticed, the demand for virtual mental therapeutics is rising, and this trend is here to stay. Therefore, we compiled trending mental health app ideas to help you remain competitive in an ever-rising market.

Self-management apps

This type of app technology aims to help people manage their stress level, anxiety, or sleep concerns. Some software can also be equipped with checkers to trace heart rate, respiratory patterns, blood pressure, etc., and enable progress tracking and receiving feedback.

Skill-training apps

Apps are based on the principles of games to assist users in acquiring new coping or thinking skills. For example, they can include educational videos about frustration management or the benefits of social support. Moreover, users can choose some behavioral strategy to try and then use the platform to trace how often new skills are trained.

Supported care

These apps provide additional support allowing users to interact with like-minded people. For example, users can connect to a support team or submit information to practicing therapists who can advise customized therapy options.

Passive symptom monitoring

Such apps may be able to identify shifts in behavior patterns that can alert a mood episode such as mania, depression, or psychosis before it takes place. The solution may not replace mental health experts, but it’s an excellent supplement to notify caregivers when a patient demands additional attention.

How to Make a Mental Health App: Platform’s Specializations

Typically, all mental health applications are designed to address a mass of psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, insomnia, eating disorders, personality disorders, and much more. Such solutions encompass all levels of care provision, containing prompt intervention, diagnosis, basic treatment, professional support, and post-treatment condition management.

How do apps for mental health work? Such telecare solutions can be accessed via smartphone or mobile devices that concentrate on enhancing various aspects of psychological well-being.

Here are some forms of mental health support that apps can provide:

  • Mindfulness meditation apps assist in reducing stress levels by guiding users through breathing techniques.
  • Mood tracking apps allow users to self-monitor their mood, thoughts, and habits by inputting observations in the app to help reveal patterns in a person's overall well-being.
  • Therapy apps help people manage psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. For example, it can be done through relaxing exercises, participating in supportive communities, chatting with therapists, and more.

So, before creating a mental health app, you need to decide what the app should focus on. All the solutions in this category are roughly divided into three groups.

Mental Self-Improvement Apps

These apps are made for emotionally healthy people who want to track their feelings, mood changes, foster positive thinking, and erase bad habits. These digital solutions tend to be driven by meditation, breathing techniques, and audio relaxation.

In turn, such applications can be split into three types:

General mental health apps

The main purpose of these apps is to improve users’ wellness awareness by monitoring their mood swings and cultivating positive emotions. For instance, What's Up, a mood tracker, provides 100 questions to discern users' feelings and includes a "Thinking Patterns" page to assist in fostering positive thinking.

Stress and anxiety apps

Specialize in reducing people's stress and anxiety. They contain mini-games, meditations, and diaries to allow users to list thoughts and/or situations that prompt stress.

Apps for addiction recovery

These apps aim to help people cope with addiction, such as drinking, smoking, or using drugs. For example, the pear reSET app contains a specialized, 12-week program that involves weekly check-ins. Users pass through a series of engaging lessons that guide them through recovery.

Psychological Disorder Apps

Unlike programs for mentally healthy people, these groups of apps must have physicians on board. Commonly, mental disorder platforms are based on the concept of online appointments or exchanging text messages. Therefore, in-app doctors must be in touch 24/7 to provide specialized support. Moreover, such applications often include community features to connect like-minded people with the same diagnosis. It enables users to share their thoughts and achievements, set goals, and be supported.

Mental Health Apps for Large Audience

These are all-in-one solutions designed for emotionally healthy people and those suffering from severe mental illnesses. In addition, some telemedicine platforms offer a set of services from doctors that deliver scheduled medical assistance. For example, Talkspace is an enterprise-level telehealth system that allows users to find the needed specialist and request aid through text messages, audio, or video consultations.

Main types of mental health applications

How to make a mental health app: select the app specialization

Please note: Before embarking on mental health app development, you should define your target audience to deliver a relevant experience. These apps can be developed for varied age groups (children, teenagers, adults, or sensors). Indeed, some mental health software targets all age groups. But they’re more difficult to build since you must consider many factors.

Monetization Models For Mental Health App Development

How to develop a mental health app and make it profitable? You need to consider the revenue models of your telehealth platform and how to monetize it successfully. Here are the most popular ways to make money with your mental health app:

Freemium

The freemium model is a great way to engage as many users as possible. You offer a set of functionality for free, while advanced features are accessed on a pay basis. This approach also implies that you can supply a free version with all the features available for the trial period, and after it expires, clients have to pay to use your solution permanently.

Subscriptions

By creating a mental health app, it’s possible to add an opportunity for monthly subscriptions. Users are charged some fees to get access to constantly renewed content like guides, videos, or podcasts. Rates and terms are up to you; commonly such apps offer several payment plans, including customized ones. This option allows business owners to get money regularly and bring more bonuses to customers.

Links with Related Services

How to create a mental health app and get additional revenue? This monetization model is popular for big healthcare organizations. You get an opportunity to promote your services/products through internal links featuring educational content in the form of books, guides, and podcasts.

Advertising

You make a profit through advertising banners or widgets. However, this model does not apply to mental disorder applications due to its specific audience. But you can use it in mental health app development for self-improvement. Still, it’s essential to select a reliable ads provider to illustrate relevant materials positively impacting users.

Read also: Getting started in Telemedicine: How to build telehealth app to deliver medical care remotely: cost, features, and pitfalls

How to Develop a Mental Health App: Must-Have Features

There are a slew of tools and techniques that can be added to modern mental health apps — acceptance and commitment therapy, gamification, mood training programs, personalized options, etc. Therefore, with such diversity, it’s vital to balance functionality to meet target users' needs.

To make it easier for you, we’ve highlighted two groups of features: functionality needed to build a minimum viable product (MVP) and advanced features to make the most out of your platform.

First, let’s take a quick look at the MVP features for mental health app development:

  1. Self-monitoring
  2. Messengers and chat with therapists
  3. Notifications and reminders
  4. Profile management
  5. Dashboards
  6. Signing-up

Self-Monitoring

This feature stands among the core components of mental health app development. If we talk about solutions for mental healthy people, it allows users to monitor mood patterns, stress levels, and other critical data for emotional well-being. If a person has a mental disorder, this feature will assist in tracking symptoms and treatment progress.

Messengers and Chat

Knowing how to make a mental health app to bridge the gap between patients and medical providers is essential. Users should be able to reach their physicians through different communication channels: text chat, video/audio messages, and live video conferences. Text messages are critical among other means of communication; most people prefer sharing their thoughts on paper rather than taking them out loud.

Notifications

Notifications provide recommendations to encourage self-monitoring. As for the reminders, they encourage users to practice relaxation techniques, take a break, go for a walk, and do other stuff to improve their psychological well-being. Additionally, some people have to take prescribed medications throughout the day. A set of alerts will remind people to take pills. Notifications can also be added to promote personalized offers, updates, or bonuses.

Profile Management

Users should be able to set up their profiles. It includes their details (name, gender, age, location), as well as health data: disorders, allergies, and chronic diseases. It’s also nice to personalize customers’ profiles by adding a set of questions, like “what time do you wake up/go to sleep”, or “how many times a week do you workout and how long”, etc.

Dashboards

In creating a mental health app, it’s good to add flexible dashboards to allow users to monitor their cognitive, emotional, and other wellness conditions and keep critical data in one place. For example, it may include a monthly calendar that displays the user’s mood swings summarized in color code, with the ability to send this data to the doctor to enhance patient care. Progress bars will motivate them to fulfill planned activities. A mood chart shows the efficiency of specific therapy, exercises, or pills. You can also let patients customize control panel settings (e.g., select relaxing music or preferred background) to provide a better user experience.

Signing Up

It’s essential to make the registration procedure as simple as possible to accelerate "app-user" interaction. Users can sign in via email, phone, or featuring 3rd party services, like Facebook. Moreover, keep a balance between ease and security. You must implement two-step authentication via SMS or email to ensure data safety. In addition, it’s crucial to add data privacy agreements available on the main screen.

MVP features for menatl health app development

Must-have features for mental health app development

Make a Mental Health App With Broader Functionality

Mental health app development isn't only about basic features. Your product must be packed with functionality that expands users’ opportunities. Not necessarily must you add all of them into the product’s release version. You can do it through some time after the launch when you'll have feedback from customers and a solid understanding of what direction you should move.

Relaxing Exercises

Relaxing and meditation techniques are an integral part of this type of software solution. Different breathing exercises, yoga workouts, and meditation will help users foster positive thinking and/or reduce stress levels and anxiety throughout the day. These are just a few app ideas for mental health to consider.

For example, the Daylight app gives an exciting idea of how to develop a mental health app to reduce stress level. The solution includes exercises called tense release. It’s a technique to relax your body and, in turn, your mind. To show users what it looks like, the design team drew up the character. A narrator guides users through the exercise, demonstrating and spelling out what to do and how. Such an approach allows users to see themselves in character.

Gamification

Mental care can be transformed into fun with games. Interactive mini-games will allow people to enhance their cognitive skills and emotional conditions. You can insert them into your daily routine, thus increasing clients’ loyalty.

Psychoeducation

This feature implies including educational content to increase behavioral health literacy. For example, you can cover specific illness topics, talk about general well-being, or share morning podcasts to motivate customers a day ahead.

Support Communities

Most people find support groups helpful in coping with their mental health diseases. By integrating this feature, patients will be able to share their thoughts and experience in a safe and confidential manner. Users also can also engage in discussion with participants with the same mental health illness and build supportive relationships. Commonly, these groups are traced by mental health experts.

Patient-Therapist Connection

Based on the requirements provided by users requesting a consultation, matching algorithms can suggest appropriate specists, guaranteeing interaction success. For instance, Talkspace offers a welcoming therapist who helps users find a suitable doctor by asking a set of questions.

Dashboard for Doctors

The therapist dashboard is a primary tool for medical providers to handle cases and patients’ progress to centralize all the information. The data is obtained from personalized surveys or journals addressing particular disorders. These records are sent to a web-based dashboard doctor's web-based dashboard and take the form of intelligible reports. A therapist can review these reports before the consultation or together with a client.

Emergency Support

Another feature mental health app developers should account for is emergency calls or messages. This option is required for people who have anxiety, panic attacks, or other similar problems. Therefore, allowing them to send emergency messages to their medical provider in one click would be great.

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Challenges to be Coped During Mental Health App Development

Like any other healthcare solution, creating a mental health app is associated with some specificity you should be ready for.

Data Security

With ever-rising cyber attacks, it’s critical to take all the preventive measures to secure your mental health app. Follow these tips to guarantee high-level data protection:

  • Compliance with legal and privacy regulations. Ensure your telecare solution keeps up with country-specific regulatory standards.
  • End-to-end encryption. All stored and shared users' EHR should be encrypted at all stages to prevent data breaches. The most popular standards for delivering mental health solutions are AES 128, 192, or 256-bit encryption, OpenPGP, and S/MIME.
  • MFA protection. Consider multi-factor authentication (passcodes, biometric techniques) to access the personal account.
  • Cybersecurity frameworks. Healthcare cybersecurity frameworks offer an additional layer of protection. They help medical entities manage sensitive data and predict cybersecurity threats. The prevalent frameworks examples are NIST, HITRUST, and ISO 27000 Series.

Regulatory Compliances

Most mental health applications on the app stores don’t fall under HIPAA requirements since they’re made for customers’ personal use. They don’t share private data with medical organizations and don’t include protected health information (PHI).

In turn, mental health app development for psychological disorders or specialized care must comply with industry laws and regulations. Such solutions contain PHI data, such as a patient's physical and mental conditions, payment details, digital medical services, etc., that can be monitored back to a specific client. Therefore, before initiating your own telecare solution in this area, do a research to understand what standards you must adhere to.

Here is the list of legislation (country-specific) that your psychological health app must follow to be secure:

  • HIPAA requirements (USA)
  • Complying with PIPEDA (Canada)
  • GDPR privacy standards (European Union)
  • Data Protection Act (UK)

Depending on geographic location and/or under certain special circumstances, your mental wellness platform should also comply with an additional set of laws and regulations, such as CCPA, NIST, HiTECH, IMLC, or FHIR.

Mental health app developers you cooperate with must comprehend privacy and data sharing affairs to deliver a robust and legitimate mental health platform. For example, the Cleveroad team has working experience in creating custom medical solutions complying with HIPAA, HITECH, and FDA requirements as well as healthcare standards (e.g., HL7, ICD-10, CCHIT, TX-HB300).

Prescription Management

The ongoing treatment and repeated medical care may require patients to access prescription refills. In this context, an easy-to-use medication management tool adjustable to the patient’s needs becomes vital. Thus, customers will be able to receive drug prescriptions on the go.

There is also a separate solution called E-prescription application that will allow you to optimize prescription management. Check our guide to learn the details!

Online Therapy

Users may have questions concerning their emotional state or treatment, so they need to contact their therapist or psychologists. Video conferencing platforms are the most prevalent form of online therapy in the mental health field. However, some people prefer receiving treatment advice via text, phone, chat, or email. Therefore, medical providers should be able to consult their patients using best-fitted communication channels.

Clinical Basis

There are proven therapeutic techniques applied to mental disorder treatment. A robust psychological health platform must follow established approaches. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to consult with mental health practitioners right from the start to the end of the development flow. For example, medical specialists may help you create questionnaires allowing users to get feedback about the intensity of the symptom and offer evidence-based exercises.

Tech Stack and API Integration

Before selecting a tech stack for product creation, you must analyze your project complexity, scope, and budget. The technologies used should coincide with the requirements and functionality you add to reach business goals. You should also consider API integrations to make your solution fully functional.

This is an example of a tech stack for mental health app development:

Backend

  • Python
  • PHP
  • Node.js

Frontend

  • JavaScript
  • React.js

Database

  • PostgreSQL
  • MongoDB

Examples of 3rd party integrations

  • Payment gateways: PayPall, Stripe
  • Social sign-ups: OpenID or SAML
  • Push notifications: Firebase Cloud Messaging
  • In-app calling/video conferencing: Twilio
  • Geolocation: Google Maps or Core Location API

Please note: Building telecare solutions cannot be taken irresponsibly because it directly impacts people’s health and sometimes life. Therefore, the mental health app developers you hire must have the required skill set to work with all the necessary technologies and tools.

At Cleveroad, we have a team of certified experts with practical experience in delivering healthcare IT solutions. Our Solution Architect will help you choose the best suit tech stack and advise the architecture to provide robust software that meets your healthcare initiatives.

Things to consider before mental health app development

Things to consider before mental health app development

How Much Will You Spend on Mental Health App Development?

The cost of creating a mental health app depends on two factors: time and developers’ rates. In turn, the time is pretty variable due to the app’s specialization, features to implement, design, integrations, number of operating systems you want to cover, and team composition. The developers’ rates depend on the specialist experience and location.

Traditional mental health app development life cycle (SDLC) includes phases of:

  • Business analysis
  • Concept validation
  • Specifying requirements
  • Design
  • Frontend and backend development
  • Testing
  • Deployment and maintenance

Average time to build a mental health app

Project phaseDevelopment time

Web

1120 h

Mobile

800 h

BA

400 h

PM

400 h

Design

200 h

QA

800 h

DevOps

80 h

Web Team Lead

200 h

Mobile Team Lead

200 h

You can select native app development for the one/two platforms or the cross-platform one. Creating a mental health app with Flutter is a good approach for deploying custom solutions that don’t heavily depend on native functionality. Flutter app development services allow you to cut the development time up to 50 percent and speed launch to market.

The final price is also affected by the location of mental health app developers since hourly rates differ from country to country:

  • Software engineers require from $150 to $250 an hour in the US.
  • App development in Australia is $100 to $150.
  • IT consulting hourly rates in Central/North Europe are $50 to $75.
  • Western Europe and the UK IT providers charge from $70 to $170 per hour.
  • Indian companies provide their assistance at $20 to $50 an hour.

Considering app development time and hourly rates across the regions, the average cost to make a mental health app will range between $60,000 and $150,000+. Integrating modern technology like AI, machine learning, RPA, rolling up updates, and multi-tier support will increase mental health app development prices.

How to Make a Mental Health App: Cleveroad’s Experience

Cleveroad is a skillful software development company with proven expertise in delivering custom digital solutions for Healthcare and Medicine institutions. Our team has hands-on experience building mental health apps, EMR, patient portals, remote patient monitoring software, and other bespoke solutions that optimize medical organizations’ processes.

Recently, we’ve created a mental health app to help people with depression and sleep disorders. The application is available for iOS and allows users to input the mental issues they’re facing, like insomnia, anxiety, depression, and more. In addition, the app offers healthy advice, timetables, and activities. Also, users can check statistics and track their progress over time.

The app is designed to work with the Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program - a proprietary program developed by Dr. Nedley.

Our team was challenged to build a secure solution allowing people to cope with depression and work on their general emotional wellness. To directly address target users’ needs, we used Big Data algorithms to customize activities (exercises) for each user by analyzing the data collected.

Here’s what client said about their experience working with us:

Neil Nedley

Neil Nedley

Founder of Nedley Health Solutions

It was a great experience for me to cooperate with Cleveroad. Its specialists have high level of professionalism, they have built a product considering all my requirements.

We followed the traditional SDLC process to bring such a digital solution:

  1. Discovery phase. Having got input information and design from our client, our Business Analysts conducted research allowing us to provide them with an estimation and technology list.
  1. UI/UX design. The design team defined user stories and visualized the main features. Then, they prepared an app prototype to show how the platform would look and function. Finally, they came up with appealing interface elements.
  1. Development stage. During the development process, we’ve used Swift and Alamofire for the iOS client side. This app also has a web admin page built with TypeScript and .NET Core. As for the third-parties, we’ve applied Elastic Email for mailing patients and Amazon S3 as cloud storage for keeping users’ data.
  1. Quality assurance. The testing stage was performed according to the world-best practices. The QA department was working out an appropriate testing strategy involving a preliminary list of tests. This approach allowed us to save time during this stage. Detected bugs and minors were immediately fixed by our coders.
  1. Project release. Having successfully implemented one more project, we passed the source code to the satisfied client.

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Frequently Asked Questions

You must conduct market research, define project requirements, and look for a reliable IT provider with proven expertise in healthcare software development services. After that, your application will go through the traditional SDLC process: Discovery phase, design, development, testing, release, and maintenance.

The cost ranges between $60,000 and $150,000, and more. App’s specialization, features to implement, design, integrations, number of operating systems you want to cover, team composition, and developers’ rates are the main price drivers.

Each mental health app should include the following set of must-have features: self-monitoring,messengers and chat with therapists, notifications and reminders, profile management, dashboards, and s signing-up features. However, mental health app development isn't only about basic functionality. Your product must be packed with advanced features to bring better user experience.

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