DOD Unveils Smart Phone Mental Health Application

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2010 — A free smart phone mobile appli­ca­tion that will help ser­vice­mem­bers, vet­er­ans and fam­i­ly mem­bers track their emo­tion­al health is now avail­able, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials announced this week.

The appli­ca­tion was devel­oped at the Nation­al Cen­ter for Tele­Health and Tech­nol­o­gy at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

“Our mis­sion here … is to lever­age tech­nol­o­gy to sup­port the behav­ioral health needs of ser­vice­mem­bers and fam­i­lies,” Per­ry Bosma­jian, a psy­chol­o­gist with the cen­ter, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

Though sev­er­al com­pa­nies and orga­ni­za­tions offer online, dig­i­tal and even paper mood-track­ing tools, he said, the DOD cen­ter “focused on issues that would be relat­ed to deploy­ment.”

The appli­ca­tion lets users mon­i­tor emo­tion­al expe­ri­ences asso­ci­at­ed with com­mon deploy­ment-relat­ed behav­ioral health issues such as post-trau­mat­ic stress, brain injury, life stress, depres­sion and anx­i­ety, Bosma­jian said. Users also can add issues they’d like to mon­i­tor, such as pain.

Each issue has a set of 10 descrip­tions called affec­tive anchors, or feel­ing anchors, that let users focus in on exact­ly how the issues are mak­ing them feel. With­in depres­sion, for exam­ple, the rat­ing screen shows a set of 10 anchors, Bosma­jian explained. “One might be depressed-hap­py, and you would move a slid­er to indi­cate where on that scale you fit,” he said.

Oth­ers might include worth­less-valu­able, tired-ener­getic or lone­ly-involved. The appli­ca­tion also lets users make notes about spe­cial cir­cum­stances for any giv­en day or rat­ing.

“It’s very easy,” Bosma­jian said. “It’s the same as typ­ing in a text mes­sage.”

The appli­ca­tion keeps track of the user’s inputs. “Once you’ve made your rat­ing for a giv­en day,” he said, “you go imme­di­ate­ly to a graph that shows every rat­ing you’ve done in that par­tic­u­lar area. If you were rat­ing depres­sion, you’d get a graph of all your depres­sion rat­ings for as long as you’d been mon­i­tor­ing that issue.”

Ser­vice­mem­bers, vet­er­ans or fam­i­ly mem­bers can use the results as a self-help tool or share them with a ther­a­pist or health care pro­fes­sion­al as a record of their emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence over time.

“Ther­a­pists and physi­cians often have to rely on patient recall when try­ing to gath­er infor­ma­tion about symp­toms over the pre­vi­ous weeks or months,” Bosma­jian said. “Research has shown that infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed after the fact, espe­cial­ly about mood, tends to be inac­cu­rate. The best record of an expe­ri­ence is when it’s record­ed at the time and place it hap­pens.”

Bosma­jian said more than 5,000 peo­ple have down­loaded the appli­ca­tion in just over a month and have record­ed more than 8,000 ses­sions.

Use of the appli­ca­tion, he added, spans every con­ti­nent except Antarc­ti­ca. “We’ve got­ten very good feed­back from users,” he said. “It has a four-plus star rat­ing.”

The Nation­al Cen­ter for Tele­Health and Tech­nol­o­gy is part of the Defense Cen­ters of Excel­lence for Psy­cho­log­i­cal Health and Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury.

The T2 Mood­Track­er appli­ca­tion, avail­able now for smart phones that use Google’s Android oper­at­ing sys­tem, should be avail­able for iPhone users in ear­ly next year.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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