Published: April 28, 2021
29 min read
Last updated: May 2, 2022
In this article, you'll learn:
✅ Top Things Worth Attention When Developing a Mental Health App
⚙️ Common Features for Mental Health Apps
👨⚕️ Types of Mental Healthcare App
🌟 Our Expertise: Feel Amazing
📊 Dashboard for Specialists
💰 What Affects Mental Health App Development Costs
Nowadays, many people tend to put career and wealth as their №1 priority and pay little attention to their mental health. However, the awareness of the population increases, thus, more people start using mental healthcare services.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a new wave of demand for mental healthcare services — up to 36% more people reported having negative impacts on their mental health and well-being. The same factor made the mental healthcare industry move towards digitization to start providing services remotely.
However, here comes the question of how to digitize the services.
To develop a mental health app, you can add features for self help for anxiety, bipolar disorder, and online therapy with health professionals (image by Purrweb UI)
With mobile users bringing the most traffic & dominating the market, many businesses choose to build a mobile app for their mental healthcare services. Thus, providers can:
So, if you want to create your own mental health app, modify your current solution, or simply learn more about the development — welcome!
In this section, we are going to give you some tips on how to “prepare the ground” for development and unlock the full potential of mental health applications.
Mental health apps can really help specialists have more regular updates on their patients’ general well-being, the severity of symptoms, etc. They can help one to build a wider picture of patients’ mental states. Yet, it requires patients to actually use the app regularly, which can be quite a challenge sometimes.
Surely, patients understand that it’s for their own good, but this “motivation” isn’t always enough. So, to encourage people to use your app more often, you can add gamification features.
Mental health app development can increase user engagement and encourage people to self help for anxiety or any other mental illness (image by Kieron Keenan)
That can include:
Although gamification features can really help you improve user engagement, we would only recommend implementing such into apps that aren’t designed for people with mental issues only, e.g., meditation apps, self-improvement apps, etc.
Since the goal of medical mental health apps is to help patients overcome their disorders, it may not be safe for their mental state to be triggered by gamification features.
For example, people with anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, OCD, and other disorders, can become frustrated if they aren’t able to get a certain reward, reach a level, collect points, take high places on the leaderboard, etc.
To prevent this, you can either not use such features in the first place or think them out really well, so they don’t become harmful to users.
Another benefit of mental health apps is processes’ automation, which can reduce the workload on specialists and cut costs. In other words, you are able to provide services to more people with the same amount of effort.
A mental health app development can help you automate parts of mental health services workflow like online therapy registration (image by Saikat Kumar)
To be more specific, you can automate these parts of the workflow:
When working in the mental health field online, it’s essential to pay a lot of attention to data security.
There are quite a few features that you can use to enable high-level security.
If you want to create a mental health app for mood tracking, stress management, anxiety and depression, etc., be sure to make this mental health solution secure (image by Himanshu Phanda)
Moreover, it’s important to educate users on what they should or shouldn’t do to prevent data leaks. In fact, awareness can be as helpful as the high level of security itself, in some cases.
Mental health app development requires high level of security since people with mental health disorders like post traumatic stress disorder, stress and anxiety, or any other mental illness are sensitive to privacy (image by Natalia Lebedeva)
Another important thing that should be done for security and legal purposes is regulatory compliance. Depending on where you come from or the citizens of what country use your app, you might need to comply with different regulations.
However, the most widely spread ones are GDPR, PIPEDA, and HIPAA compliances:
We have an informative guide on how to make sure that your product complies with these regulations:
How to Make Sure Your App or Website is HIPAA, PIPEDA & GDPR Compliant
In this section, we are going to review the most common features of mental health apps
Normally, we recommend making the sign-up process as fast as possible, so as not to repel new users. However, for mental health apps, it’s something rather necessary, since user policies for such apps are more strict. At the very beginning, it will most likely be enough for you to ask for full name, phone number, and/or email.
Mental health apps should find a balance between security of mental health mobile app and the easiness of the sign-up for users (image by Square Studio)
Later on, you might need to ask for more detailed information to fully form a medical profile of each patient. As for detailed yet general info, you can ask for a photo and age. Also, nowadays it’s quite important to ask for sex/gender and pronouns. Since the mental health of a modern person highly depends on how they define themselves in society, it’s important that they feel respected and comfortable when using your app.
Mental health apps should have informative users’ profiles with health data (image by Filip Justić)
Surely, you should ask for mental health details — disorders, chronic illnesses, allergies, intolerances, and so on. Depending on the type of your app, you might need to ask some additional questions.
Moreover, you should offer to attach all tests to their profile (like blood or alcohol tests, reports from sessions with specialists, etc.). For this purpose, you might additionally need a file uploading feature.
To regularly keep track of patients’ mental health, it might be a good idea to add daily check-ups with general questions to your app.
Mental health apps should have mental health check-ups for users to have more efficient therapy sessions (image by Rahadian Maulana)
You can ask about their current mood and any concerns like a psychosomatic form of the issue or pains. Also, you could allow them to add customized questions to such check-ups. Moreover, you can add questions specifically for each disorder or goal, and the relevant symptoms.
Additionally, think about enabling a bar for notes in addition to each question to cover the information that isn’t in the questions themselves. There should be a section for leaving comments at the end of the check-up as well.
So that everything is practically and medically useful, think about allowing to store each check-up to track the dynamics and changes in a patient’s well-being.
It’s essential for people with any mental issues to be able to express all of their thoughts. With an app, such a “throw-out” of emotions and concerns can be enabled by adding a diary section.
A mental health mobile app should have a thought diary feature for users to splash out emotions and thoughts (image by Andrea Eppy)
First of all, it should have a regular typing feature (like in Notes). However, since mental conditions are directly connected to emotions, it’s not always possible for a patient to express what they feel with words (especially, if it’s a kid).
Thus, we’d recommend allowing users to draw, use different colors, geometric figures, and so on. You may even add audio notes for those patients who prefer speaking over writing.
Also, think about giving suggestions on what to write about to spark thoughts and maybe give certain directions as well. Finally, if needed, users should be able to share their notes with a doctor right in the app or via another platform.
To get the maximum efficacy of your mental health app and provide a better user experience with it, consider offering video appointments with therapists, psychotherapists, and other mental health specialists.
Mental health app development should take users’ need to communicate with a mental health professional (image by Amit Pathania)
Apart from the basic functionality that this feature implies, you might need:
It can be a great idea to offer on-demand videos or audios for situations when there’s no need to have an appointment with a specialist or call for urgent mental help, yet, a patient still can’t cope with it on their own.
During mental health app development, consider that you might want to add on-demand content (image by Sertan Helvacı)
For example, you can add therapeutic videos/audio recordings for anxiety cases, for instance. Another use case can be if a patient is having a panic attack, people who are currently near them or the patient themselves (if they’re able to) can play a recording with instructions on how to cope.
Such can also include recordings for:
To be there for your patients when they need urgent help, you can add a set of emergency support features. For example, such may include:
Mental health solutions should have 24/7 mental support for users to be able to get a therapy in emergencies (image by Carolina Ferreira)
Apart from urgent care, it might be a good idea to offer some general contact information for regular cases like your mental help service phone number, email, physical address (if there is such), links to social media, etc.
In-app meditations may help patients control their feelings better, understand the true reasons why they appear in the first place, and have a more aware lifestyle. With an app, meditations can be much more customizable and personalized. For example, you can make each meditation accessible in various durations - 3, 5, or 10 minutes.
Another way to provide a better user experience is to tag each meditation correspondingly, let’s say “For Anxiety,” “For Stress,” “For Grounding,” “For Motivation,” etc. This way, users can easily find desired meditation without having to scroll through big meditation lists.
In mental health solutions, meditations can be a great addition to therapy sessions (image by QClay)
Additionally, it’ll be great if you make recommendations to users based on what they usually watch. This can be enabled with the help of simple analytical AI.
Apart from meditations, there are a bunch of different activities you can add to your app:
With an app, it’s really easy to create an “I am not alone” feeling, which is really important for people struggling mentally. One of the best ways to enable such is by allowing your users to communicate with each other on special forums and in group chats.
For this place to be safe, you can add a Bad Word Filter feature so there will be no bullying, provocative phrases, swear words, etc. To enable it, you can use such APIs as Content Moderator from Microsoft Azure, Perspective, etc.
You can also allow users to be anonymous on these forums since some people may need this kind of support but don’t feel comfortable with others finding out about their personality and condition.
Furthermore, you can implement audio chats like in the Clubhouse app. We talk about that more in our article dedicated to enabling audio chatting functionality in your app if you’d like to learn more about it:
How to Build a Voice Chat App like Clubhouse
To remind patients about certain activities, daily tasks, journaling, and so on, you can enable push notifications. Moreover, it’s reasonable to send motivational and encouraging notifications to remind people how strong and capable they are.
Self-esteem and being grateful for the progress one is making is highly important for mental health. So, you can help your users realize that with the help of push notifications.
Push-notifications are an important part of mental health mobile apps (image by [Markus Gavrilov)
Even though the end goal of such apps is to help people, we shouldn’t forget about the business part. You can use push notifications to offer personalized offers, which can allow you to increase sales.
If you want to measure certain physical indicators like heart rate, daily activities (steps, running) and put that into users’ medical profiles, you can offer them to connect their BLE devices with your app.
To enable such, you’ll need an API like HealthKit from Apple, which includes transferring data from fitness apps and devices.
At Stormotion, we’ve enabled data transactions from cadence and heart rate sensors right into the Platoon Fit app, a fitness project putting a special emphasis on health monitoring gadgets.
Many mental health services opt for mobile apps since they offer a wide-variety of third party integrations (image by Dmitry Lauretsky)
Additionally, there’s a bunch of other tools and technologies that you can use for your mental health app:
The mental health industry is quite diverse. There is a wide range of apps that target different people with various issues and disorders.
In this section, we’ll cover the most widespread types of mental health apps, which are for:
If you see the type that suits your use case the most, feel free to click on the link to start reading that exact piece.
Keep in mind that these are only the most typical cases. If your use case isn’t on the list or you can’t really categorize it, feel free to drop us a line — we’ll help you!
Anxiety, depression, and mood swings are some of the most common mental health issues of an individual who lives in a capitalistic society —
62% of people suffer from anxiety to a certain extent and 264M from depression.
Let’s take a look at how you can use an app to help patients cope with such mental issues.
Even though these conditions need to be clinically diagnosed, it’s possible to determine whether or not an individual has symptoms of such with help of assessment tests.
A mental health app for any mental illness like stress and anxiety can have self monitoring features like a mood tracker (image by Amgad Okail)
You can offer users to take assessment tests on a regular basis to understand their current mental state. It’s pretty easy to do with a custom app since you won’t be limited in the number of questions and methods of assessment that you can have in your app.
That can be:
Depending on the severity of these conditions, they can provoke suicidal thoughts. With an app, there’s quite a lot that you can do to help people overcome them:
A mental health app can be a help for anxiety management and have traditional therapy methods to help people with self monitoring (image by Bradley Gabr-Ryn)
Sometimes, a person suffering from such thoughts can be unaware of how to behave, which is why it’s highly important to educate friends and relatives on how they can help.
You can add educational guides, hold lectures and webinars on this topic, etc.
Let’s take a look at some existing solutions in this field:
Apps can be a great addition to therapeutic treatment or self-control of addictions. Along with the common features for mental health apps, you might want to add some specialized ones to address your target audience better.
Since fighting addictions is a tough process both physically and mentally, it’s essential for people to visualize the progress.
Mental health app developers in the field of addiction recovery mental health apps add features to help users visualize the progress (image by I Am Sober App)
So, you can enable such tracking in several ways:
Surely, you can combine these features for higher efficiency.
Moreover, with an app, it’s easier to encourage and motivate people to keep going. For example, you can send motivational notifications like “You’re doing great!”, “We really appreciate your effort!”, “You have such a strong will, don’t give up!” to support users on their journey.
Alternatively, you can implement gamification features and give users special avatars, tiers, or rewards for reaching a goal — such bonuses can play a significant role in keeping them determined.
Apps have a lot to offer in terms of relapse prevention for people with addictions.
Mental health app developers in the field of mental disorder like addiction add traditional therapy methods as well to help users control their mood and well-being (shots from BMJ Open)
First of all, you can add a lot of educational materials since awareness can really help in this situation. It’s important for “ex-addicts” to understand that it’s their nervous system, previous behavioral patterns, and hormones trying to trick them into relapse. With an app, it’s easier to deliver this information, which can help them to resist temptation.
To add a more reliable means of control, you can offer to upload clinical tests (like drug or alcohol blood testing) to the app, so specialists can access it as well. When there’s a certain form of accountability, addicts are less likely to experience a relapse, and doctors can react immediately.
Let’s take a look at some real-world examples of such apps:
Digital products can help people with mental disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, bipolar, schizophrenia, and others. For example, mobile apps can work as a tool for symptom mitigation, self-care (to the extent that’s possible in such cases), early detection of exacerbation stages, etc.
Here are some features that will work well for such purposes.
Since patients carry their mobile devices with them most of the time throughout the day, it might be a good idea to add journaling to the app.
A mental health app for mental health issues like obsessive compulsive disorder or post traumatic stress disorder should have journaling feature (image by Svitlana Bilan)
Even though journaling might be useful for many types of mental health apps, the ones that target people with such disorders would benefit most from it.
For instance, without an app, it’s pretty hard to track how one’s mental well-being changes during the day and how one feels.
However, a psychiatrist can “prescribe” journaling at least 3 times a day or whenever a person feels like it. If a writing style, general mood of the text changes, or a person manages to precisely explain how they feel, what happened, and so on, a specialist can tell that something is off.
It can help a doctor to determine regularities & connections, see what and how actions or people impact a patient’s mental state and track the dynamics of the issue for treatment improvement.
Additionally, you can include regular mood questionnaires with customized questions for each user.
Since the range of mental disorders is quite wide, we’ve decided to give a couple of apps for the most known disorders:
Most of these apps focus on tracking patients’ mood and mental wellbeing in as much detail as possible. Thus, they work as a rather supportive method to the main medical treatment.
Treating eating disorders is really specific since it directly affects physical health yet needs to be treated as a mental condition as well.
So, let’s review what features can be added to such eating disorder apps.
For healthy and balanced eating habits, it’s important to track calories, so a patient doesn’t eat too quickly, overeat or eat too little.
A mental health app for this purpose should help users balance their eating habits (image by Jeehom)
You can automate this process as much as possible by using an API like CalorieKing so users can choose ingredients (dishes, separate products, etc.), specify the weight of whatever they’re eating, and the tracker will automatically count calories and split up the dish into nutrients.
Additionally, it might be a great idea to offer various lists with recipes. You can include such for different categories of patients: without special demands regarding the ingredients, with diabetes, different allergies, lactose intolerance, low & high calories, and many others.
In fact, we have an article dedicated just to Nutrition & Diet apps if you’d like to check it out:
Diet & Nutrition App Development
Another essential feature for eating disorder apps is meal planner.
A mental health app for such mental health problems should help users deal with anxiety (image by simantOo)
The functionality of such an app should include:
It might be a good idea to allow doctors to access this planner to control the process & maybe even manage it, change calories, add dishes, etc.
Here are some real-life examples of such apps:
The self-improvement app market is really diverse — there are apps for increasing patience, concentration, building self-confidence, overcoming fears, and many others.
Let’s take a look at how exactly such an app can help you provide better services for your target audience.
Since it might be hard for some people to improve their personalities by themselves, it might be a good idea to offer coaching sessions with mentors and therapists.
A mental health app for self-improvement can also have services of mental health practitioners or features for anxiety control as well (image by Purrweb UI)
That can include:
We have a whole article dedicated to coaching app development, so you can check it out if you’re interested.
How to Make a Mobile Coaching App
For people to have a more systematic approach to using self-development apps, it might be a good idea to add a habits tracker into your app.
A mental health app for self-improvement can have therapy for mental health disorders prevention (image by Amjad ✌️)
You can offer pre-made goals after asking individuals to fill out questionnaires regarding their goals to set them with a coach or therapist after the session, and to fully customize their daily/weekly/monthly to-do lists.
Many habits tracking apps have a calendar for better progress visualization. You can mark different results with a different color, for example:
Personal growth apps often include workouts & exercise plans since many people have that as their goals.
General mental health apps can offer features for mental health disorders prevention (image by Arya Wijaya Kusuma)
You can include workouts:
There are quite a lot of such apps on the market:
As many people become more aware of their “inner self”, more and more of them try to meditate to reduce stress, get grounded, understand their feelings better, and just spend a couple of minutes in silence.
We’re not going to get into detail here, since we have a whole article dedicated to developing such apps:
How to Make a Meditation App like Headspace
Let’s take some of the existing solutions as an example:
We’ve covered a case study on our blog, dedicated to the first 3 apps on the list if you’d like to get some tips on how to improve your current or future meditation & mindfulness product:
Top 3 Meditation Apps: Tips, Tricks & Fails to Avoid
To sum up, we’d like to point out that even though some features might be more suitable for certain types of apps, each case is unique, thus, any combination of features is possible.
We at Stormotion developed an app for Ailsa’s Frank project Feel Amazing. She’s a British motivational keynote speaker and hypnotherapist.
This project is intended to help people become a better version of themselves by providing courses on various topics like fighting fears, building confidence, taking control over addictions, improving communication skills, and so on.
Since the app covers some sensitive topics like addictions (alcohol, binge drinking (separate courses for men and women), smoking, taking cocaine, etc.), we’ve enabled the Child Lock feature.
Feel amazing-like mental health apps offer a wide range of therapy session options that meet the needs of most users (image by Stormotion)
Our company developed an app with a new concept, compared it to their previous solutions, and modified the content distribution system for the Feel Amazing project. Previously, users were getting their courses via email with a Dropbox link. Now, all courses are accessible and purchasable in the app itself.
If you’d like to find out more about this specific project, please follow the link to this case study on our website:
Feel Amazing: Case Study
There are two ways of how you can develop a dashboard for specialists:
Surely, the development process will be different for the two options, however, all features are applicable to either.
In this section, we’ll cover what features you might need to add to your app for specialists.
To make it easier for users to choose specialists and for doctors to work with patients that meet their competencies, you can add doctor profiles.
A mental health tracker app shoud allow doctors to create a profile with the information about them (image by Shafiqul Islam 🌱)
That can include:
To be able to fully manage a patient’s treatment process, doctors will most likely need an extended patient profile with their medical history, current diagnosis, prescriptions, test results, and so on.
Mental health mobile application for doctors should allow access to users’ profiles (image by Riko Sapto Dimo)
We’d recommend making 3 lists of patients:
It’s a good idea to make these lists customizable, so each specialist can manage them according to their cases/preferences. You might as well consider allowing them to create an unlimited number of patient lists.
For doctors to manage their workload and timetable conveniently, you can add a scheduling tool into your app.
To create an app for psychiatrists or simply mental health applications, you can add schedule for doctors (image by Shahriar Ahmed)
One of the most widespread ways to enable this feature is by integrating a functional calendar with features to manage appointments, leave notes, and so on.
Additionally, you can integrate this feature with 3rd-Party Platforms that are already a part of your processes. For example, you may automatically transfer data of new users to a CRM you use or link a video call in Google Meets or Zoom.
We have an article dedicated to online booking tool development, where we explain all the development aspects in detail:
How to Create an Online Booking System for Your App or Site
Technically, the feature is the same as it is for patients, however, doctors might need a more extended and structured version of it since they’ll have many chats active simultaneously.
Mobile therapist app development should include adding the chatting feature (image by Mahmudul Hasan Manik)
As with patient profiles, chats can be separated into several screens — new, current, not active.
It’s reasonable to allow patients & doctors to share files like lab results, documents, photos, etc. with each other within the app. For a more convenient user experience, you can integrate the chat with users’ cameras so they can make photos/videos directly in the app.
Furthermore, many healthcare apps use a chatbot that asks users about their symptoms and concerns so doctors can dedicate more time to understanding the problem deeper.
Additionally, you might add a bar for notes, so doctors can mark important information during calls. Then, these notes can be transferred to patients’ profiles (on the doctor’s version of the app).
It’s also important to provide specialists with different metrics to manage, track, and optimize various aspects of their services.
To make a mental health tracker, consider adding analytics (image by Bagus Fikri)
It can include:
Even a more or less accurate calculation of the costs is quite a challenge since first of all, each case is unique, and second of all, you never know what unexpected costs can pop up during the process.
However, it can be helpful to take certain aspects of the development that directly influence the costs into account, which are:
We've tried to create a rough estimation of what the costs might look like. Here you go:
Educational Website/LMS Features Estimated in Hours
Using React Native
⏳ Min Hours
⏱ Max Hours
🔐 Sign Up Flow
👤 Profile Management Flow
📑 Well-Being Check-Ups
📝 Journaling Flow
💬 Chatting Flow
🎥 Video Sessions
🔊 On-Demand Video/Audio Content
🧘 Mental Activities Flow
🩺 Assesment Tests
👐 Suicide Prevention
📊 Progress Tracking
😌 Relapse Prevention
🍏 Nutrition Flow
🏃 Habits Tracker
💵 Approximate costs
Although mental health apps can significantly ease the process of treatment and make it more convenient, such conditions require a comprehensive medical approach.
That's why we recommend using the app rather as a complementary part of the whole treatment that helps to keep in touch with patients, have regular updates on their mental state, reduce the workload by automating certain parts of the workflow, etc.
Don’t forget about the security of your app. For mental health apps, it’s not only important to actually provide security, but also to let users know that they’re safe.
If you need any help with the development or have any questions left, feel free to reach out to us. We’d be happy to help you on your journey to improving people’s mental state!
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