Yesterday, October 29, will be remembered as a watershed day for all of us in the mental health field. Persons with mental health conditions, their family members, friends and peers, providers, and others in the community have an important new tool. Now, help will be available simply through one click on a smart phone app. This click will connect one with a 24-hour crisis hotline. Another click will connect one to the local 911 emergency response number, if additional help is needed.
And this is just the beginning. This same app, “Mental Health and You MHU” also provides information on the signs and symptoms of seven different mental illnesses. And it links to a broad array of local behavioral health and social support services. It even provides important epidemiological information about mental illness and its treatment.
Mental Health and You MHU was launched at an impressive gathering in San Antonio, TX, on October 29 by the Center for Health Care Services. Leon Evans, President and CEO of the Center, introduced the app, “MHU is a new mobile application that helps people identify today’s prevalent mental disorders, and, even more importantly, it provides very useful tools to help people maneuver through a mental health crisis.”
All of us can recount situations in which mental illness was recognized, but no one knew what action to take. This could be by a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, or by the person in distress. Now, that impediment has been removed. Help is just one click away on MHU.
In our tech savvy, hurried are, most of our children, youth, and young adults communicate predominantly through social media, and most have a smart phone to do so. Allison Greer, Vice President of External Relations at the Center, acknowledged this, “MHU is today’s mental health university presented in a modern phone app. Its reach is very broad, and it will appeal to people on the go.”
The Center plans to work with the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors (NACBHDD) to make MHU available broadly to city, county, and state service delivery systems. The specific local resources in the app can be adapted easily to identify local service and support resources. At the launch event, I indicated that NACBHDD would be delighted to work with the Center4 to disseminate MHU broadly.
In a recent book chapter, I concluded that a mental health consumer sitting in a waiting room is likely to be much more tech savvy than the provider he or she is waiting to see. Modern digital communication technology seems to end at the provider’s door. There are many reasons for this, including training, regulation, and culture. MHU will begin to balance that disparity. I hope that you will download MHU, and that you will make it part of the work you do every day.
Our hats are off to Leon Evans, Allison Greer and the other staff of the Center for Health Care Services for their foresight and boldness in undertaking this very important work. I know that we all will benefit from this tool. Going forward, I hope that no one should need to say that they don’t know what to do when they themselves or another experiences a mental health crisis.