Twelve years into a struggle with bulimia and anorexia, Jessie Joachim says she still feels guilty whenever she tells her therapist out loud that she has purged a meal. But a smartphone app designed for people with eating disorders and body image issues has given her another way to stay accountable: Along with seeing a therapist each week, she uses the app to record whether she purges or restricts how much she eats each day and completes exercises that teach her new coping strategies — all while exchanging messages with a coach trained and certified in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). “When I was doing well, it was rewarding,” Joachim, 22, tells OZY, of her experience using the app. “When I wasn’t doing well, it was like looking in a mirror — it made it harder to ignore.”
A growing group of technologies is pitching coaching, counseling and monitoring services at teens and young adults fighting eating disorders, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Many focus on crisis intervention, including DoSomething.org’s Crisis Text Line, for teens who want free, anytime-access to trained specialists, as well as Mood 24/7, which lets people send a daily text message about how they feel to a doctor, therapist or loved one. Lantern, the subscription-based Web and mobile service that Joachim has been testing for free, is set to release its eating disorder program in February for $33 to $75 a month. It has spent months testing on college campuses, where psychological problems have shot up some 28 percentage points between 2000 and 2010. The CodeBlue app, meanwhile, is due for release this spring and is designed to help teens alert members of a designated support network with a text message whenever they feel acutely depressed. It’s like Uber for those in need of mental health help — right now.
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