Researchers at the University of Manchester have developed a smartphone app designed to help people with early psychosis.
The Actissist app targets a number of areas that people with early psychosis often have trouble with, including perceived criticism from others; getting out and about; cannabis use; and distress caused by symptoms such as paranoia and hearing voices.
The app has shown promising results, with patients taking part in a proof-of-concept trial reporting that they liked using the app.
Patients used the app over 12 weeks and were afterwards assessed for any change in their symptoms and wellbeing.
Patients taking part in the trial reported that the app was safe to use and helped improve their mental health.
The app works by inviting patients to choose an aspect of their mental health they would like to work on and complete a set of questions.
Patients receive messages and hints and tips suggesting ways of coping with any experiences they identify as distressing.
The app also contains information and activities such as videos, a diary, external links to useful websites, factsheets, mindfulness and relaxation exercises. It also includes a graphical read-out of any changes in patients’ psychotic experiences.
The results of the trial will now be tested in a Medical Research Council funded £1.6 million programme of work.
Manchester’s Dr Sandra Bucci, who led the trial, said: “We found that people liked using the app. It was safe to use and even in our small sample there were promising effects about the benefits of using the app for mental health.
“Some participants showed improvements over time in psychotic symptoms and in their mood when compared to the control group who used a symptom monitoring app called ClinTouch.
“Participants also reported that they enjoyed using Actissist, with 90% of participants saying that they would recommend it to others experiencing psychosis.”
She added: “The potential benefit of an app for psychosis is that people are able to access help and support at any time and in any place, unlike traditional support options.
“But Actissist is not designed to replace clinicians. Instead, we hope Actissist will be a tool that people can choose to access whenever and wherever they wish; a tool that facilitates shared decision-making about treatment.
“For some people, this may be alongside the clinical care that they currently receive, but others may prefer to use the app on its own.”