Nearly 50 million Americans are experiencing mental illness, and over half (56%) of adults with a mental illness receive no treatment. While these are difficult numbers to take in, COVID-19 has just exasperated an already growing mental health crisis in our nation.
After two-plus years of living through a pandemic, a lot of us are starting to feel it. We’re exhausted. We’re overwhelmed. Many of us are overworked and stretched thin. So why are we ignoring our mental health? Why aren’t we paying attention to burnout?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while most people are aware that mental health is a “thing,” they don’t really know how to address it or treat it—or even how to stay mentally healthy. While mental illness is a serious medical concern, it isn’t treated with the same urgency as a broken arm or chest pains. Oftentimes, mental health concerns are ignored or downplayed—and it’s becoming a problem.
That’s why mental health apps are now such a big trend, and why they’re paving the way to better managing burnout in the workplace.
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome resulting from workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It’s characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. Pandemic-related stressors like work-from-home complexities, social health needs, childcare concerns, and teammate turnover likely won’t stop anytime soon, so stress-reducing measures should be top of mind for employers.
We’re managing multiple things at once, from the usual family and friend-related responsibilities to work schedules, to a prolonged and potentially life-threatening health scare—and all while pivoting regularly based on changing global health recommendations and dealing with the Great Resignation. It’s a lot to handle, and sometimes we simply can’t do it alone.
That’s why we need to think of mental health holistically, not just in terms of work-related burnout, but in terms of how every component of our lives plays into stressors (or stress-relievers), and they all need to be taken into consideration. One solution to help get a holistic picture of one’s mental health is to track mental health patterns 24/7. It seems impossible to do without having a personal psychologist following you around, but one company is using tech to try to accomplish this goal.
The Behavidence Android app takes advantage of modern consumer technology (your smartphone) to accurately diagnose mental health flare-ups. Behavidence uses machine learning-based tools to detect and assist with remote monitoring and management of mental health conditions through passive digital biomarkers.
The app is designed to predict disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more by assessing patterns in consumer behavior. The digital phenotyping measurement-based outcomes of the app are the first of their kind, and Behavidence hopes that having a wealth of data to measure in relation to mental health diagnoses will improve psychology and psychiatric research—leading to more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans.
From a consumer perspective, the app can be used by individuals to monitor their own behaviors, making them more self-aware, and empowering them to seek medical attention as they see negative trends. Employees can monitor changes in their mental health by reviewing their daily mental health similarity scores. As an employee experiences mental decline, the app will begin to show changes in the digital behavioral metrics, in some cases, before the employee even notices the symptoms.
When it comes to managing stressful situations for those that do not currently suffer from a mental health condition, prevention is key. Cue: Mindfulness, which may just be one of the hottest trends of 2022. Through meditation—breathing exercises intended to center your body and mind—mindfulness can be achieved. But you can also practice mindfulness simply by being present and not allowing your mind to wander to past or future worries. Once you learn how to clear your mind and focus on being in the moment, you’re one step closer to avoiding burnout.
New to the mindfulness movement? There are apps for that, too. Apps like Headspace and Calm partner well with Behavidence and offer employees guided meditations and tools to support them through burnout moments. With calming sounds, peaceful visuals, and centering your thoughts, you’re able to get to a better mental space—and that’s good not just for employees but for everyone around them.
Employees are going above and beyond to avoid the burnout and stressors of past years. But tracking and understanding mental health is a science, and we need to start treating it like one. Apps that use digital phenotyping to track patterns over time allow users and their physicians to better understand the intricacies of mental health. With the right data in hand, and an urgency to achieve mental wellness, we can all make proactive decisions to improve our quality of life and to better support those around us.