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Mental health and you MHU: A new mobile app for crisis response

October 30, 2014
by Ron Manderscheid
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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.




Interesting announcement of this crisis mental health app (MHU), and in my hometown, San Antonio, at that. As a retired Army Primary Care Provider who spent his career working towards prevention, I'd like to see technology bring the user together with an integrated Primary Care-Behavioral Health Team rather than a distant crisis center. This would go far to reduce the stigma of calling a stranger on a global crisis line. It would also be good if those producing crisis apps would get together and collaborate. We overwhelm potential users, already dealing with mental health challenges, with so many options, leading to more confusion. Have you heard of "LiveSafe?" I believe they are implementing an app addressing the issues of relationship, trust, and stigma using two-way communication options with a local community-based approach encouraging quality communication via trusted safety net links for Service Members, Veterans, and Families with mental health issues.

Thanks George. Your comments are on target: We do need to help folks get services and manage their choices well.

These are exciting times in behavioral/mental health care and we must leverage the power of technology to continue the amazing work that we do. In a recent issue of JAPNA, my colleague and I wrote about the potentials of mHealth in mental health.

"Harnessing Mobile Health Technology to Digitally Engage Mental Health Consumers in Recovery"

MHU is great mobile application for providing information on the signs and symptoms of seven different mental illnesses. Mental health crisis should be reduced and diagnose the illness. Providing information about mental illness and its treatment is an helpful mobile app for all mental patients.

Ron Manderscheid

Exec. Dir., NACBHDD and NARMH

Ron Manderscheid


Ron Manderscheid, Ph.D., serves as the Executive Director of the National Association of County...

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