Mental health app rolled out

Text messages improve self management and enhance recovery

A new mental health app is being rolled out in 10 areas across the UK following a successful pilot in London.

Buddy is a digital service that uses text messages to enable patients to keep a daily diary of what they are doing and how they are feeling, helping them to spot and reinforce positive behaviours to enhance recovery. It can also be used for appointment reminders and goal-setting.

Following a trial in the capital, the app is now being rolled out by mental health service providers in Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Croydon, and in north east Essex. It is also being deployed by the Pennine and Five Boroughs Partnership covering Wigan, St.Helens, Halton, Knowsley and Warrington in the North West. They will use Buddy for patients with a range of conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders.

Buddy was developed by Sidekick Studios in association with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), the largest provider of mental health services in Britain, and its rollout is being supported by the NHS London Regional Innovation Fund and the National Endowment Society, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

This digital tool increases the effectiveness of the behavioural activation techniques used by therapists in sessions

A spokesman said: “Buddy replaces traditional paper-based mood diaries by using more accurate, more modern SMS functionality. It offers simple online tools that allow the service user to see for themselves the patterns in their life and empower them to change their behaviours. This is important as therapy succeeds when a patient is able to take greater control of their life.

“The system allows the user and therapist to collaborate to set goals and agree timely SMS reminders to prompt the user. This digital tool increases the effectiveness of the behavioural activation techniques used by therapists in sessions.”

During the trial, Buddy was also shown to reduce failures to attend appointments, saving time and money.

This tool and its successors will become more important in the mental health services of the future

“What was most helpful about Buddy was the way you could build up a picture of how clients/patients evaluated each day and what they did,” said Jerome Carson, former consultant clinical psychologist for the Streatham Community Mental Health Team at SLaM.

“Buddy's use of the mobile phone is a master stroke. Literally everyone has one of these now and takes them with them wherever they go. This tool and its successors will become more important in the mental health services of the future.”

Lisa Parle from mental health charity, MCCH, added: “Buddy gives the people we support in the community extra contact time and ensures continuity between visits. The diary acts as a prompt for discussion of events and experiences that have impacted either negatively or positively on the person's wellbeing. This strengthens the relationship between the person and their keyworker.”

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