For the past four years, KGA has vetted well-being apps in order to recommend its top 10 choices for EA professionals. This project is more difficult today than when it first began because the market has been flooded with options. New apps appear every day, and the number of mental health ones has increased significantly. For example, in May 2016, the following number of apps were introduced: 805 medical, 1,206 health and fitness, and 2,225 lifestyle. In contrast, it is estimated that five million apps will be available to consumers by 2020 (Perez, 2016).
Top 10 Well-Being Apps for 2018

Can Well-Being Apps Help with the Mental Health Crisis?

One in six U.S. adults, or 48.3 million adults, live with a mental illness, which represents a national epidemic that EAPs are uniquely positioned to help address (Marshall, 2018). People with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar have a life expectancy that is 25 years less than those without these conditions. (Nichols, 2018).

Although face-to-face counseling is still a treatment choice for many, others are turning to e-mental health options, such as well-being apps, to get the assistance they need.

Study of EAP and Behavioral Health Executives

In a recent 2018 National Behavioral Consortium (NBC) survey on apps and e-health platforms, 60 percent of EAPs and managed behavioral health care organizations (MBHOs) agreed that apps were "very important" or "extremely important" in making interventions more available, helping members with specialty programs, and addressing generational differences.

As part of the survey, NBC member organizations covering more than 22 million lives identified the app categories of greatest interest:

* Stress, 73%;

* Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), 68%;

* Depression, 64%;

* Anxiety, 59%; and

* Addiction: 55%

Top 10 Well-Being Apps for 2018

The apps most familiar to EAPs were Moodhacker, Headspace, and Happify, which focus on improving a person's mood and outlook. But while the number of mental health and well-being apps available is staggering, engagement has not kept pace. Health experts recognize that apps can play a key role in both mental and physical health, but note that consumer interest may be lagging behind.

EAPs Can Narrow Options in a Crowded, Confusing Field

EAPs are in a unique position to recommend trusted apps to clients who may otherwise bounce around a disjointed mental health system. Critical in this process is narrowing a list so that it isn't overwhelming.

"If we're overwhelmed [by apps] as clinicians," says Alison Magee, Senior VP of Clinical Services at KGA, "just imagine what it's like for someone suffering from a mental condition."

Apps Form a Bridge in EAP Counseling

Apps can be helpful in employee assistance work for a variety of reasons. Since EAP counseling is typically short-term, recommending an app to a client can help fill a waiting period while the practitioner searches for a good referral. Collaborating with a client on an app can also deepen a relationship that otherwise would be more superficial. For example, reviewing progress on an app with a short-term client may make three counseling sessions seem like more than that. There are also times when a client may be waiting for a session opening. Apps can also address this gap.

The Relevancy of Well-Being Apps

Apps are more specialized than ever, which makes them even more relevant and helpful. For instance, some clients prefer a private digital-based program over a face-to-face or video interaction.

Apps can also assist in treating serious mental health issues. A recent study of men with depression showed that high-risk men were more likely to endorse accessing resources on the Internet than low-risk men (Wang, et al, 2016).

For these men, the top three reasons to access e-mental health included: getting help with sleep hygiene, improving stress and depression, and having quality information about work-related stress issues. 

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