Suicide Rates Remain High, Mental Health Apps Not the Solution

Searches for mental health apps surged in the U.S. and China while effects of the digital solution remain dubious, a new report reveals.

AppBi, a Chinese Apple Search Ads solution provider, published in its June report that an increasing number of therapeutic apps are listed among of the Top 20 apps in the health category this year. Searches with the key words of “depression”, “mental health”, and “mental health tracker” are ramping up in the U.S. Apple App store.

mental health search results
depression search results

Among the top mental health apps, the highest ranked was “Mindfulness”, an app that uses meditation to combat anxiety and provides exercises to help release stress. Three other most downloaded and most highly rated apps are Talkspace, MoodTools, and Rise Up and Recover – an online therapist provider, an app with video and online solutions to depression, and one that focuses on psychological eating disorders respectively.

Talkspace、MoodTools、Rise Up and Recover

While companies behind mental health apps are still heavily concentrated in the US, the number of Chinese mental health apps also sprang up over the past years. Apps such as JianDanXinLi (“Easy mind”), NuanXinLi (“Warm heart”), and YouXinRen (“Thoughtful helper”) are gaining popularity by creating new ways for users to receive counseling services from certified therapists.


There is an increasing amount of concern over depression following the suicides of fashion designer Kate Spade and CNN host Anthony Bourdain. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one suicide due to depression takes place every 40 seconds globally. That is 800,000 people taking their own life every year.

The American Psychiatric Association App Evaluation Model

China, among the countries with the highest suicide rates in the world, saw 4.2 percent of the country’s population suffer from depression in 2017, according to the WHO.

Among tests ran on 700 of these self-help mental health apps, only 4 percent showed effecitve results. 58 of them were proven to be not helpful at all, while the majority only helped to a limited extent.

Many doctors worry that instead of helping the users, the apps could do harms as issues pertaining to data leaks are also something to be concerned about.