Mental Health App Development 2024 | Features, Costs and Monetization
Every year, the demand for mental health applications grows, and it has grown more significantly due to the impacts of Covid-19. More and more people have resolved to use stress relievers and meditation apps to get through their day at home. However, given the delicate nature of the issues that these apps address, creating one is no easy task. In this article, we will share our knowledge and experience gained from creating our previously developed Mental Health App.
If you’re thinking about doing anything like this or a start-up owner who just happens to be interested in Mental Health App Development, keep reading for tips, recommendations, and obstacles.
1. Mental Health App Market Overview
The state of mental health in America in 2023 is pretty concerning. According to Mental Health America:
- 21% of adults are experiencing mental illness – equivalent to 50 million Americans.
- 55% of adults with a mental illness in the United States require treatment that is currently unmet.
- 16% of youth report suffering from one or more major depressive episodes in the past year, equivalent to 2,7 million people. But 60% of them didn’t receive proper treatment.
- According to statistics, people suffering from mental health disorders constituted 20.6% only among US citizens.
- Depression leads to mental health illnesses in 3,8% of the population, and the figures are about to increase as people’s concern about psychological issues have risen by over 28% in Europe and the US.
- Cost is one of the key reasons people couldn’t access mental health services.
On a global look, the statistics are also raising great attention:
- 322 million people worldwide live with depression (The Zebra).
- Almost 800 million people are suffering from mental health disorders.
- The number of women who experience depression is twice the rate of men.
The pandemic has pushed individuals even more into a mental health crisis. Many people have had to deal with depression, anxiety, stress, or any other mental health problems when they have to stay home for a long period of time without interacting with the outside world.
Also according to an article from PRNewswire The development of mental health apps revenue will grow by 23.7% between 2019 to 2027.
Why Are Mental Health Apps So Popular Today?
Mental health has been at the forefront of the public’s attention in recent years. And the pandemic has only contributed to our already high levels of anxiety. According to Kaiser Family Foundation research, the number of adults in the United States suffering anxiety and/or indicators of depression doubled during the epidemic.
While the importance of mental health is becoming more widely recognized, many people are still hesitant to seek help from a therapist. There are numerous reasons for this:
- People cannot afford long-term treatment.
- Individuals can’t see a therapist regularly due to a lack of time.
- A lack of flexibility and the need to rearrange one’s schedule prevents the person from accommodating sessions.
- Finding a decent therapist is a difficult task.
- Some countries have limited access to therapists.
- Societies still view counseling as something only for “crazy” people and “lost causes.”
- People fear being found out and mocked for having a mental illness.
- An apprehension that a therapist will withhold mental health information.
- Many people feel awkward discussing profoundly intimate problems with a stranger.
Most of the concerns listed above are solved, at least in part, by mobile apps. Mental health applications provide greater flexibility and reduce the need to travel to a therapist’s office. It’s also easier to hide trips to a counselor using an app than hide visits to a counselor. The fact that individuals can have online sessions also makes them feel more relaxed in sharing their information. Not only that, it helps people to access treatment at a more affordable cost.
All of the above reasons explain why mental health app development is necessary for society.
2. Types of Mental Health Apps
Mental health is a broad topic, and no software can pretend to cover everything there is to know about it. Any software, whether an app or a website, should not do so – too much information and functionality do any service, be it an app or a website, clumsy and difficult to use.
Instead, it’s more practical for both users and developers to create mental health apps that fall into several categories. Customers benefit from categorization since it allows them to identify suitable solutions more quickly. The following types can be used to categorize mental health apps:
2.1. Mental Disorder Apps
Mental disorder apps are designed specifically for users fighting severe illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Apps of this kind usually use proven treatment methods, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), mood monitoring, mindfulness, and cognitive skills training.
Digital psychological help providers have significantly changed the mental health niche, offering alternatives to traditional therapy appointments or clinical treatment. Many patients can now feel free and secure with a 24/7 online doctor on their smartphones. Profound medical monitoring and live person–therapist communication make treatment easy for both parties.
MoodTools, MoodKit, Talkspace, and Happify are believed to provide valuable opportunities for dealing with depression. These are excellent examples of mental health app development as they were designed with the help of therapists and coaches.
2.2. Mental Self-Improvement Apps
Self-improvement apps aim to check general psychological health and relieve slight problems like stress, anxiety, negative thinking, frustration, and bad habits. These apps bet on meditation techniques or connect users with psychologists to ensure proper self-care solutions.
a. General Mental Health Apps
General-purpose apps specialize in maintaining users’ self-care via mood control and successfully implementing healthy habits. Mental health app developers may include varied features in their products, such as specified questions, community features, and checklists.
For $150 per month, 7 Cups offers customers self-care guides, 24/7 chat with volunteers, and confidential communication with licensed specialists. Simultaneously, the What’s Up app provides a variety of self-care activities to help people cope with stress, anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions.
b. Apps for Addiction Recovery
Fighting bad habits on one’s own can become an unbearable load, so many people need external help to healthier their lives. Apps supporting addiction recovery provide trackers, helpful info, daily reminders, meditations, sharing experiences, and a supportive community. Good mental health apps for addiction recovery include Twenty-Four Hours a Day, Quit That!, and Squirrel Recovery.
c. Stress and Anxiety Apps
Stress, frustration, and anxiety stand among the most common problems modern people experience. Thus apps helping to tackle these issues are in high demand. With numerous relaxation techniques and effective motivational plans, services guarantee positive results that make their users feel comfortable again. The best applications to overcome stress are CBT Thought Record Diary, Mind Shift, Stop, Breathe & Think, and Smiling Mind.
Online libraries offering mental health-related materials; self-assessment apps
Mental health trackers
Apps that track users’ emotions sleep patterns, habits, and symptoms.
General-purpose self-help apps
Stress and moderate anxiety apps, as well as meditation and mindfulness apps
Mental disorder self-help apps
Apps aimed towards reducing the symptoms of one or more common mental illnesses.
Apps that transfer treatment sessions from offline to online
Therapy supplement apps
When a therapist is involved, trackers and self-help applications are used to treat problems (and can provide therapists access to a user’s data).
Apps connecting patients
Apps resemble social networks or forums where persons with mental illnesses can share their stories and connect with others.
3. How To Develop Mental Health Apps?
We’ve developed a tried-and-true method for creating a mental health mobile app throughout the years. Here are the major steps to take from an idea to a successful launch and specific cautions to be aware of in the healthcare market.
Step 1: Discovery Phase
When developing a mental health app, it’s critical to have a clear vision of the type of app you want to make. You can start by answering the following questions:
- Is mental health the primary issue that the software addresses, or is it a side issue?
- Will your software cater to a specific user group?
- Will your app focus on a specific mental health issue, or will it be a general-purpose software that helps people maintain a healthy mind?
- Will you make a stand-alone app or one that works in conjunction with in-person therapy?
- What kind of app do you have in mind?
Do you want to build a digital library, an assessment app, or an app that actively helps patients with features like meditation, mood tracking, and self-confidence affirmations? Or are you planning to develop a teletherapy app?
- Who is the intended audience for your app?
To find the market fit, you must first understand your target audience. Specific mental health concerns are more prevalent in certain demographics. You can make a mental health app for children, teenagers, the elderly, LGBTQ+ persons, immigrants, and others. You might also choose to target the broader public.
- Is your software a stand-alone application?
Although severe problems necessitate the assistance of a specialist, an app can still be utilized as a supplement. Apps that track medications, moods, and routines might be used between therapy sessions or during breaks. If designed as treatment supplements, these apps can provide therapists with access to a patient’s data (with the patient’s consent).
Step 2. Conduct Competitor & Market Research
Approximately 20,000 mental health apps are available in app stores. Although it is not the most significant section of the mobile app market, the fierce rivalry is. One of the most important steps in developing a mental health app is to examine how others have succeeded and failed.
Of course, studying all 20,000 competitors isn’t essential. It’s always a good idea to look into the most successful applications in your sector, but it’s also good to look into a few apps that failed because they might teach you something.
You can use competitor analysis to identify the best and worst practices in your niche.
Step 3. Create A Detailed Plan
A business plan summarizes the study you did to develop a mental health app. Writing a comprehensive business plan will assist you in visualizing what you want to build and how you want it to function.
As you work on your app, you’ll definitely make adjustments to your business plan, but it’s crucial to have as complete a picture as possible before you begin. This will cut down on trial-and-error errors, speed up time to market, and lessen the cost of developing your mental health app.
Step 4. Find The Right Developers
If you’re building an app from scratch, you’ll need to hire:
- Android and/or iOS developers
- Server-side developer
- UI/UX designer
- Quality assurance specialist
- Project manager
You can find separate freelancers, or you can hire an IT outsourcing company for a software app development services.
However, keep in mind that medical apps are challenging in ways that require more than just technical knowledge. There are legal dangers specific to mobile apps in the IT healthcare solutions sector and recommendations from health experts, and requirements from health authorities. This is why we advocate enlisting the help of experts who have worked on health-related apps before.
Step 5. Build An MVP
Launching a minimum viable product (MVP) allows you to complete the following objectives:
- Save costs
- Acquire your first users
- Test the application on users who aren’t developers
- Earn early revenue
- Enhance brand recognition before the full launch
Because an MVP is a condensed form of an app, it is less expensive and faster to develop, and launching your app with the promise of expanding and upgrading it can help you make income and establish your brand online. If you have your own practice, this money can develop further, and online recognition can lead to offline clients.
However, the most significant advantage of an MVP is the opportunity to get honest feedback from users who are interested in the app. When developing an app to assist people with mental problems, feedback is even more vital. A disruptive UX or sluggish performance will be even more of an issue for users who come to your app to feel calmer than it would be for the average user in other sorts of apps.
Step 6. Monitor & Analyze Performance
Whether you release an MVP or a full product, the launch is only the beginning of your app’s journey; there’s still much work to be done.
For a mobile app to remain relevant, it must be updated and improved regularly. And, in order to create updates that are beneficial to your audience, you’ll need to understand what keeps users coming back and what drives them away.
You’ll be able to make better decisions about prioritizing features, updates, and sales techniques if you track user engagement numbers.
Step 7. Marketing Campaign
It’s difficult to exaggerate the value of marketing in terms of app performance. To attract users, you’ll need to advertise your mental health app wisely, even if it’s one-of-a-kind — perhaps it takes an original approach or offers a unique combination of features.
There are a number of ways to market your mental health mobile app, but we have narrowed them down the some of the most significant:
- Social media advertising
- App store optimization
- Content marketing on your company’s blog and on third-party platforms
- Press coverage in relevant publications
- Hiring influencers to advertise your app
- Noticeable presence on social media and mental health forums
Your marketing team will assist you in selecting a suitable strategy and marketing channels for optimum exposure based on the behavior and expectations of your target audience.
Step 8. Continue To Update Your App
Any app that does not receive upgrades and updates and those that do not keep up with advances and trends will eventually become obsolete. That’s why it’s critical to keep track of your mental health app’s performance, make data-driven improvements, and roll out updates to keep users engaged after it’s launched.
4. How Do Mental Health Apps Make Money?
Just like any other apps out there, these are the monetization options you can choose from for a mobile app:
- In-app purchases
- Paid downloads
Ads are not suggested for monetization in mental health apps due to the unique nature of the experience and the risk of agitating users.
Users may find in-app purchases irritating if there is a lot of material that must be purchased individually.
If your company is directly involved in providing mental health therapy and you already have a reputation and strategies to obtain app users from your clients, paid downloads are a viable choice.
The following are the two most common monetization options:
- During the trial period of subscription-based apps users often receive access to all content. The trial period for prevalent mental health applications can last up to two weeks.
- The freemium model allows users to access some content for free while paying for access to the full scope of information through a subscription or a one-time purchase.
- Paid downloads provide more money at once but not overtime, whereas subscriptions provide a minor but constant money flow. The optimum monetization model will be determined by your business model.
You can also advertise and sell things through internal links that display similar products such as books, podcasts, or workshops.
5. Mental Health App Features & Notices
Some of the elements listed below may be more significant than others, depending on the type of mental health app you’re creating.
It’s critical to take your consumers through the program step by step, describing the features simply but clearly. You might want to explore using animated “assistants” to add some emotion and care, and you can engage a professional to design your instructions in a way that considers your users’ individual needs.
5.2. User profile
Shortcuts to key elements like user data, progress, most-used features, and settings should be kept in a user profile.
It’s critical for users of mental health apps to be able to customize their experiences. Users should be able to customize the volume and frequency of notifications, select a theme (if one is available), and so on.
Push notifications can be used to remind users of upcoming tasks or gently entice them to open the app by asking how their day is going.
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Meditation and mindfulness are frequently advised for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or panic attacks. Audio for guided or unguided meditation can be added to your app’s functionality.
5.6. Mood Tracking
A mood tracker is beneficial for persons who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or other mood disorders. Users can gain some control over their conditions and possibly address mood-altering causes by recording their moods.
Journaling is frequently associated with mood tracking, and for some people, it can serve as a substitute for meditation as a relaxing activity.
5.8. Sleep Tracking
Sleep disorders are common in people with a variety of mental health issues. You might include a simple tracker or a more comprehensive one that allows users to note suspected causes of tiredness or insomnia (e.g., medication, agitating activities).
5.9. Medication Reminders
If your app is for mental health conditions that require medicine, adding customizable reminders for users to take their medications will be advantageous.
5.10. Trigger Checkers
Users can cope with their disorders by writing down the triggers that produce anxiety, panic attacks, or depressive episodes.
5.11. In-app Support
Many apps benefit from chatbots that handle issues, but for those who are battling with mental health, genuine and competent human assistance is a superior option because the human mind is too complex for bots to comprehend.
5.12. Community Features
Peer support can be the most valuable resource available to someone experiencing or recovering from an episode. Patients can cope better if they know they’re not alone.
Switching focus away from triggers to an eye-pleasing game can help people relax. We do, however, advise care when it comes to gamification: competitive games or leaderboards might negatively impact users’ spirits.
Inspiring quotes and affirmative words can lift a person’s spirits and aid in the fight against despair and anxiety.
Allow users to save their favorite features or information for quick access from their profile or home screen, reducing the user journey and improving the user experience.
5.16. Matching Patients & Therapists
For teletherapy apps, you’ll need the ability to connect users with therapists depending on the problem they’re having and the therapists’ qualifications, fees, and schedules.
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5.17. Dashboard For Therapists
A therapist dashboard is required for apps that connect therapists with patients. It will also require its own set of features. It might also be a separate app with a back end that connects to the patient app.
Sharing moods and/or activities on social networks or messengers functions similarly to community features in that it fosters a sense of belonging and encourages individuals who care about the user to offer assistance.
5.19. Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
Because it can offer activities and content tailored to users’ habits and tastes, machine learning can make your mental health app more engaging.
5.20. Admin Panel
You’ll need an admin panel to add or update content and monitor activities. The most common format is a simple web page.
6. Factors To Consider For Your Mental Health App Development
Mental health apps reduce the workload for care providers thanks to the process’s automation. So ensure your app’s workflow is optimized for the best performance.
Automation can be applied to these parts of the workflow:
- Patient registration
- Appointment booking
- Patient interviews before appointments
- Daily symptom control
- Payment process and confirmation
- Prescription clarification
Data security is probably the most important aspect that a mental health app needs to attend.
There are numerous options available to provide high-level security.
- Multi-factor authentication (password, security token, biometric verification like fingerprints, face ID, voice recognition, one-time passcode, phone call verification, personal security questions).
- End-to-end encryption – a type of encryption in which no one can read the messages transferred except the sender and the recipient.
- Fingerprinting. This function is intended to identify a patient’s device (that includes the operating system, screen size, IP address, location, time, language, etc.). A user is notified if certain indications unexpectedly change.
- Real-time fraud notifications. Keep users updated about fraud cases so that they can actively protect their information.
Know how to design a compliant mental health app if you want to make a successful one. To protect user privacy, different countries have enacted essentially identical standards and regulations.
- USA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA
- European Union – General Data Protection Rules or GDPR
- United Kingdom – Data Protection Act
- Canada – Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
They want to make sure that developers are also aware of privacy and data sharing issues while learning how to make a mental health app. Because a medical record or history is personal to a person, it must be protected and safeguarded.
7. How Much Does It Cost To Develop Mental Health App?
In this article, we’ve shown you a variety of mental health-related apps. And it would be a lie to claim that there is a single price that applies to all of them. However, we can provide estimates for development timelines and required specialists, which are the two aspects that have the most impact on costs.
The team you’ll need to develop a mental health app consists of:
- Project manager
- UI/UX designer
- Android developer
- iOS developer
- Backend developer
- 2–3 quality assurance specialists
A mindfulness app with extensive features like monitoring, analysis, audio content, and a bespoke admin panel, in our experience, can take a year to develop and cost anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000. However, we’re talking about an entire app, not an MVP.
A simplified self-assessment app can be constructed in two to five months (depending on the complexity of the evaluation) and will thus be much less expensive.
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The features you include in your mental health app will depend on its specific focus and target audience. However, some common features to consider are self-assessment tools, mood tracking, goal setting and progress tracking, mindfulness exercises, guided meditation, journaling, educational content, peer support communities, and crisis intervention resources.
To make your mental health app engaging and encourage regular use, consider incorporating elements such as gamification, rewards or badges for achieving goals, progress visualization, personalized recommendations, push notifications for reminders or encouragement, and interactive features like quizzes, challenges, or habit trackers.
The choice of platforms depends on your target audience and market research. Consider developing your app for both iOS and Android platforms to reach a wider user base. You may also explore web-based versions or compatibility with wearable devices, depending on your app's functionalities.
Conducting rigorous research and evaluation is crucial to ensure the effectiveness of your mental health app. Collaborate with mental health professionals to validate the app's content and interventions. Conduct usability testing with potential users to gather feedback and make improvements. Track user outcomes and engage in data analysis to assess the app's impact on mental health indicators.
Yes, there are several ethical considerations in mental health app development. These include obtaining informed consent from users, ensuring confidentiality and privacy of user data, providing accurate and evidence-based information, considering potential biases in algorithms or content recommendations, and being transparent about the app's limitations and potential risks.
Marketing your mental health app effectively involves understanding your target audience, identifying their needs and pain points, and positioning your app as a solution. Utilize digital marketing strategies such as social media marketing, content marketing, influencer partnerships, app store optimization, and targeted advertising. Engage mental health professionals and organizations to raise awareness and credibility for your app.
Developing a mental health app requires careful attention to several important considerations. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:
- Privacy and Security: Mental health apps often deal with sensitive and personal information. It is crucial to prioritize user privacy and implement robust security measures to protect user data from unauthorized access or breaches.
- Regulatory Compliance: Familiarize yourself with relevant laws and regulations, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the United States, if your app handles protected health information. Ensure that your app complies with these regulations to maintain legal and ethical standards.
- User Experience and Design: Design an intuitive and user-friendly interface that enhances user engagement and makes it easy for individuals to navigate the app. Keep in mind that mental health users may be experiencing emotional distress, so create a visually appealing and calming design that promotes a positive experience.
- Evidence-Based Content: Ensure that the mental health app provides accurate and evidence-based information. Collaborate with mental health professionals to develop content that is reliable, trustworthy, and up-to-date.
- Customization and Personalization: Every individual's mental health needs are unique. Consider providing features that allow users to personalize their app experience, such as customizable goals, reminders, or personalized content recommendations.
- Data Analytics: Implement analytics tools to track user behavior, app usage patterns, and outcomes. This data can provide valuable insights for improving the app, identifying user needs, and enhancing mental health interventions.
- Collaboration with Mental Health Professionals: Engage mental health professionals in the development process to ensure the app aligns with established therapeutic approaches. Their expertise can help shape the app's features, interventions, and overall effectiveness.
- Integration with Existing Mental Health Systems: Consider integrating your app with existing mental health systems, such as electronic health records (EHRs) or teletherapy platforms, to facilitate seamless communication and continuity of care.
- Accessibility: Ensure that your app is accessible to a wide range of users, including individuals with disabilities. Follow accessibility guidelines and offer features like text-to-speech, adjustable font sizes, and color contrast options.
- Continuous Improvement and Updates: Mental health app development is an ongoing process. Collect user feedback, monitor performance metrics, and regularly update and improve the app based on user needs, technological advancements, and emerging research.