Warning about e-therapy

Canadian psychologist stresses the importance of professional presence in mental health apps forums

by Mina Martin

Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. In Canada, 20 per cent of Canadians experience mental illness in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. However, a new report suggests those suffering from mental illnesses should think twice before seeking help from unmonitored mental health app forums, as these may prove dangerous rather than beneficial.  

In a report by The Canadian Press, experts warn against the use of so-called e-therapy, especially when professionals are not involved. One source quoted that there are an estimated 3,000 mental health apps for Android, Apple, and Microsoft on the web that are not examined by mental health professionals.

Many health application forums have interactive forums where users with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or addictions, share their problems, and, in some cases, seek advice. In an interview with The Canadian Press, psychologist Dr. Kimberly Da Silva, of North Shore Stress and Anxiety Clinic in Vancouver, stressed the importance of mental health professionals in these conversations to monitor, support, and lend their expertise.

Da Silva expressed that people using the aforementioned apps may be influenced to attempt unhealthy coping strategies. David Wiljer, senior director at the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said that unmonitored forums are risky because multiple perspectives are perhaps not shared, or there could be misinformation.

Da Silva told The Canadian Press: “I don’t think it’s beneficial just to have a forum of negativity without anybody saying ‘Hey, there are ways to manage this. It’s not easy, but it can be done’.”