Apps that may help productivity for those suffering from mental health issues

About one in four of us will have a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. Whether it's anxiety, depression, or some other mood disorder. It's also costing us on the job-- with lost production.

Stress, anxiety, or even depression can come from a hectic work environment or toxic workplace. Other times, it's just balancing work with life. Either way, the cost to companies can be massive.

"Probably in excess of $100-billion in terms of lost productivity and lost time from work combined," said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of Mental Health America.

Gionfriddo sees hope on the horizon for employers and employees with something called telemental health.

"It can be much more effective at identifying people early and getting them into services, care, supports, and treatment at a time when they can most easily recover," said Gionfriddo.

Telemental health includes mobile apps like Ginger, Cast Light, or Talk Space. The apps don't diagnose mental illness but can detect a pattern or risk. Then you are connected to the help you need.

This is good for businesses who see stress manifest itself in absenteeism, lower productivity, and disability. So now, more and more companies are making sure employees are aware of the online options.

"Our program is currently being used by large employers with over 50,000 employees, also government employers, and also many small companies, as well," said Eric Lucas, the Oxygen Plan.

Lucas is the founder of the Oxygen Plan, which helps deliver a stress number to those using the app. Then it delivers ways to lower that number.

How much of that information is given to your boss? Lucas said privacy laws protect employees. The bosses aren't given details on individual employees just a bigger picture.

"With stress number, companies for the first time can get an aggregate look at their employee base. 'Hey, are my woman more stressed than my men?', for instance, or, 'Are my young people more stressed than people who have been around for a while?'"

Mental health proponents think that feedback is important.

"What that aggregate information can also tell us is whether or not workplaces have what some people call toxic stress in them," said Gionfriddo.

You do not even have to go through your work to use most of these apps.

"These apps give people the opportunity to self-monitor, to get connected to people like them, and to get referrals to the kinds of services and supports that they need and are looking for," said Gionfriddo.

So far-- research has shown the apps compare well with face-to-face contact with a mental health expert. And it's either about the same cost or less expensive to use the apps.
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