A while back on Tumblr, I learned that there was an app that helped with dealing with the depression and moods. Granted, what made this one different was that it would slip into your life and point out when you are sad and most importantly, tell others that you’re in trouble if you start to show critical signs of depression or a suicidal nature. This app knows that depressed people tend to become very withdrawn and thus are not likely to reach out for help in their more critical moments, which creates a negative feedback loop that plummets the person further and further into a suicidal state because they take the silence towards their self isolation (that they didn’t tell anyone) as a sign that truly no one cares and that since no one is coming for them, they must truly be a burden and that maybe ending it all would simply be the smarter choice that benefits everyone. This app keys in to those moods and starts making efforts to reach out.

It was super hard to find this app for a range of reasons One, I didn’t know how to look for it besides, “Mental health app that checks in on you”. I didn’t know the name from the Tumblr post and I definitely couldn’t find it. I tried out a lot of apps while I still tried to find this one. None were nearly as good, because they either didn’t feel very helpful, didn’t ask good questions or simply did too little. They all could be ignored during a time of withdrawing since they strongly depend on the troubled person to have the will to say something. Convincing people to reach out when they truly don’t want to is not an easy task.

Finally, I managed to find the app I was looking for called “Mobilyze!” It uses the accelerometer to see if the person is inactive (such as laying in bed all day because they’re stricken with a depressive mode), the GPS to see if they are staying at home too much like a hermit and even the frequency of calls and texts to help figure out if the person is going through a depressive episode. Picking up on this, it will give suggestions such as calling people, meeting friends or simply going outside. The app identifies risk states and tries to counteract them. Here, David Mohr, Ph.D, creator of the idea, wrote that the point of Mobilyze has two goals: “One is to support patients with depression in making changes in behavior that will reduce or eliminate depressive symptoms. The other is to develop a system that learns to identify patients’ states at any given moment, allowing Mobilyze to reach out and intervene in real time. Essentially, we are trying to put a therapist in the patient’s pocket.”

Listen to him talk more about the app:

I really like the intervening part of the app because it understands how a depressed person thinks and the fact that they draw into themselves and that self-isolation means that they will not willingly make the effort to reach out for help. However, when trying to find more info about the app (as in, I tried to find it in the Android Market with no luck), I would hit dead end after dead end. I even tripped over the official information page at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine[link] where there is an inactive link but a great description of the app’s function: “Current methods of care do not permit intervention at ‘critical moments’ – moments when a behavioral prescription is most needed, and when an intervention is most likely to affect adherence to the behavioral prescription.” Turns out, the app was renamed “IntelliCare”, possibly because there is already a non-related app already called “Mobilyze” Mobilyze ran out of money but Intellicare is a similar version of it.

After looking around for it, I managed to find IntelliCare and now I can talk about it. For starters, it’s a hub that is a series of apps (all free) so you can pinpoint what would work best for you. I downloaded quite a few because a lot of the apps interested me…that and I wanted to review.

This isn't even all of them, there are a lot of choices, which means there's a lot of versatility for a variety of people. This is good.

This isn’t even all of them, there are a lot of choices, which means versatility.

Yes, this looks like a lot but given a lot of people suffer from depression in different ways, having a bunch of options is great. Plus it helps the app learn about you. However, it is a lot so this is what I did instead: made a folder!

This is a lot better because they're all in the same place, which brings some order and makes it feel like one app truly

This is a lot better because they’re all in the same place, which brings some order and makes it feel like one app truly

Remember, you don’t have to download them all, just what best pertains to you. Actually, the Hub will even recommend at least two of the apps to you after a few questions and it all connects to the server. I first tried out Social Force because I really wanted to have the social safety net since I withdraw heavily when depressed. I don’t tend to reach out when I have a problem or when I’m depressed at alllll. I also have a tendency to be really withdrawn and just get into sordid moods.

Since I have a lot of the apps, let me review one by one:

Intellicare Hub
This app is the center of all the apps, the one-stop shop. That eventually gets annoying. I would like to be able to go to the other apps via this one, that would be nifty given it already tells you that you have pending messages…about a million of them it feels like when you have more than the dedicated two – and even then, the pending messages get annoying because you may have already checked in earlier in the day or there isn’t an update available for you to download like it wants you to. You can’t swipe away the redundant messages either, you have to click on them and get sent to the Google Play page to make the message go away. It’s understanding that they don’t want to be so easy rid of because a depressed person needs to be involved but I really would like more informative messages and those messages be a bit fewer. Everyday, the app tells me to call someone, go somewhere (even if I am already out and about), things of that nature. It’s a pest that could convince the person to simply uninstall the app because it’s not slipping into your life, it’s sticking out in a way that can annoy when it gets too much. Also, I think it would be nice to have a daily (or adjustable) mood check in, similar to the Sleep Diary in Slumber Time. That way, it can be more than just a static hub but something active as a mood diary, kind of like Moodlytics. That way the rest of the apps can interact with the person since they’ll have a better key in on the person moods, even if they’re not entering them at all (which can imply withdrawing). Also, the little Andy the Android avatars are nice but why is Andy the Android, a green figure, White in some decorations? Either add more (read: Darker) skins so that everyone (including the populations the psych field is notorious for ignoring (read: Darker)) can feel included in the app. It’s really not that hard to have various flesh tones if you want to make Andy look more human. Little things like that can convince darker skinned folks that maybe this app isn’t for them or that the psych field yet again is putting up another “Not for you” sign. This app should want to avoid this because as far as underserved populations go, they do not want to screw over bigger ones, which are minority populations. And I still don’t know what the point system is about or how to gain more points. The avatar is a teeny feature but it’s the little things that are the most important.

ME Locate
I now know that Mobilyze! and Intellicare are two different apps. I think I would have liked to try Mobilyze more because ME Locate isn’t as good as I would like it to be. When starting the app, it always zooms into a My Place, not to where you are. Perhaps it is a passive suggestion of a spot to go but it could be better. Plus, zooming in to where I am initially, instead of a My Place, would be more intuitive if I wanted to quickly add a new My Place so I can check into it in the future. Also, I would like the app to be a lot more intuitive in picking up when I am out and about – basically, not home. The app is to convince you to go outside, it doesn’t need to pester you anymore to go outside if you’re already there. The app can determine via pinging from cell towers (as explained in the vid above), to decide “Ok, this person is out and about, I can take a break.” It should only start getting really persistent if the person has not been outside their home for a set period of time or they fall in too much of a “Go To Work, Go Home, Wash, Rinse, Repeat” zombie-like habit, which can happen to depressives who are still going outside but mainly to do the very, very basics, such as working. Especially if the person starts indicating that they are slipping deeper and deeper in depression via the mood diaries. (Seriously, mood diary would be great to personalize the experience). Maybe to keep the app from getting too dormant, maybe it could have a basic pedometer.

MoveMe
I haven’t used MoveMe much but I think it could really shine as a “get active” app. I wouldn’t mind if the app reminded me to take a brisk walk or do knee ups or simply stretch once a day or every other day. Now, the app doesn’t need to turn you into Terry Crews, Laila Ali or Choo Sunghoon but even the littlest things can help when going through depression. Heck, I’ve noticed on Tumblr when a “Hey! You! Did you get some water? Stretch your arms. Don’t forget to take your meds if you haven’t! Look at this stop light gif and breathe. Alright, you’re good to go” posts are really super helpful because they’re pleasant reminders that express care and are not invasive at all. MoveMe should strive for that in regards to saying, “Did you stretch today? Don’t know how? Here’s some suggestions”. Actually, MoveMe can also have a pedometer option (which can share info with ME Locate if the user wants it that way. It needs to improve its reminder system as well, make it similar to Daily Feats with a secondary reminder if ignored because the person is out and about.

Worry Knot
I haven’t used Worry Knot much but I know part of it is due to my first impressions where it annoyed me. The part I found annoying was kind of the assumption that all worries could be calmed down with pleasant woobly woobly feelings. However, its aim is to prevent “tangled”/obsessive thinking where you are caught in a worry cycle, which it can be a little helpful of but perhaps could be tweaked better. I would suggest others to try out the app for themselves and see how they like it. It could possibly do well to also acknowledge triggers and how they work because they cause worry as well but may need more care. It’s useful but can be better.

Thought Challenger
Another app I didn’t really like all that much. I think what turned me off from using the app as much is saying “What is your negative or unrealistic thought?” The only part that bugged me was “unrealistic” because here’s the thing about perspective, folks: What may seem like an unrealistic worry to everyone on the outside can seem like a very, very realistic worry to the person with the thought. They need to go with another word because it shouldn’t really automatically guess that the person knows their worry is unrealistic, seems pretty real to them. It would be better to just say “What is your negative thought?” There you go, the user knows what that is and it’s broad enough that many users will understand it successfully.

Aspire
I don’t use Aspire much. I think they should include a “Happy” path because I know many, especially folks in my generation, would appreciate a guide to that path. To just not be depressed or feel bogged down, to be happy. The app looks promising, however.

Daily Feats
This one is really good, not that invasive and you can set a reminder to put in your daily feats. You can edit the list as well as make feats of your own so you can personalize your progress. I have no complaints here, it’s really nice.

wpid-2015-04-08-12-17-22.pngwpid-2015-04-08-12-20-14.pngPurple Chill
For some reason, this makes me think of Prince somehow. I don’t know why but it does. Anywhoodle, I think I should get into this app more. It’s really has potential. It talks about deep breathing and techniques as well as how to’s. There’s even a breathing dot mediation that has a moving dot for you to follow as you learn deep breathing. The app will ask you how stressed you are now and proceed to tailor your experiences in relation to how frazzled you feel to maximize your use of the app. That’s not all, there is also learning how to practice mindfulness, muscle relaxations, mediations for sleep and more!

Slumber Time
This app keeps track of your sleeping habits and it’s pretty nifty for the most part. You fill out a sleep diary (which you can be reminded of, similar to Daily Feats) when you wake up but the best part is that for the app to track the noise, temperature and lighting in your environment, just flip the phone on its side, it’ll record everything, which can help you determine when you went to bed and to sleep. However, don’t use the alarm function, it is glitchy in that it will make the app shut itself off. Also, it would be nice if the app had a pinch zoom for the graph so it was easier to read, especially for those hard of seeing. That and straighten out the jumble of numbers at the bottom of the graph. Surely, they mean something but looking like a numerical error pattern, it’s looks incredibly glitchy, even if it is not. Maybe shade part of the graph to represent night and day. Also it would be wise to let people put in the times for the naps they take in opposed to whether or not they simply took them and for how long because it is a big difference if you took one power nap earlier in the day or at the end of the day and if you took a couple naps instead of just one.

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Social Force
This is what sold me on Mobilyze: the fact that if you became too depressed and the app knew it, it would intervene on your behalf and inform people that you really could use someone to talk to. This is important – crucial, even – for depressives because they withdraw from people and tend to take the fact no one is reaching out to them (because they didn’t know their friend was in peril. They could be just taking a social media break or something) as proof that no one cares about them and that they are truly a troublemaking burden that should just stop existing. Now, Social Force lets you build up a network that you can contact through the app itself. You can also pick and categorize friends by what kind of friend they are to you.

wpid-2015-04-08-12-03-15.png

The various colored circled show what kind of friend they are to you. Are they great for emotional support? Practical support? Somebody to hang out with? So on and so forth. Once you pick them out, they will show as circles on your Social Force screen so you can contact them for easy access.

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Of course, the graph will change as you interact more and more with people. However, if you don’t have anyone, that’s ok. There is a little how-to guide on how to meet people and develop positive support circles.

Now, I haven’t neglected the app enough or shown a strong enough depressive state to see if it will intervene on my behalf like Mobilyze would (if it doesn’t, it needs to be in there! That was the selling point for me!) but it does tell me nearly every day to call or text someone. If you’re already being social and out and about, I think they shouldn’t have to be so frequent. It’s annoying. There’s times it has popped up while I was talking to people right then and there. Maybe once or twice a week, especially if I’m showing a depressive mood, which then it should ramp up to maybe three or four times a week and intervene on one’s behalf if they reject the “Hey, you should contact [someone]!” at least three times. Especially if the person has ME Locate and it has determined that the person has not been out or just been doing the walking dead crawl (Home – Work – That’s it) so they need to be social to break the trend.

Now, ultimately, I think this app has a lot of promise, especially since Mobilyze sadly ran out of money (steam). I would recommend people to download the app and give it a try. There is a lot that I have not mentioned in this review because there is so much to the app, such as how it recommends apps based on your initial questionnaire and gives you a “how are you feeling” questionnaire once in a while. It’s free to use, actually has a lot to it and very beneficial.

What I like about the app is that the writing is not too technical. It understand that the average person using the app will not be some psychology expert but a normal person, it helps the app be less intimidating and easier to use. I didn’t like the description of “Magical Thinking” for when experiencing anxiety, however (I think this was in Thought Challenger or Worry Knot). It would have been better to call it “Assumptive Thinking” since it is indeed making assumptions which fuel worried thinking. I’m Pagan so of course I would find that reference odd.

Now, this is over but next week is Ask Black Witch! Send in your questions! Remember, good questions are appreciated, bad questions are eviscerated! Send them in!