1. What kinds of stress-related problems can m-HELP address?
Many users of the m-HELP studies report anxiety, sadness, irritability, problems at work or in getting along with others. Sometimes these painful emotions are associated with physical problems such as headaches, low energy, and insomnia. The online stress management programs we recommend will teach you skills to help you control your emotions, improve your sense of well-being, and reduce the physical problems caused by stress.
If your level of distress is severe—if, for example, you are having trouble carrying out basic responsibilities at home or at work or are feeling suicidal—you might be suffering from a behavioral health problem that requires seeing a primary care doctor and/or a mental health professional such as a psychologist or social worker. For these problems, treatment typically consists of medication and/or talk therapy, which nowadays is often delivered via phone or the internet.
The m-HELP initiative is not designed to be a substitute for mental health treatment, nor is it able to link you with a licensed mental health treatment provider.
2. Can online stress management programs still be useful if I am already getting mental health treatment?
Yes, these online programs can often be an effective addition to ongoing treatment from a licensed medical professional. For example, take the case of someone who is currently taking medication for depression: while an antidepressant might boost that person’s overall mood, he still might be having difficulty concentrating on various work tasks. That problem is something that an online stress management program could help him address. Many mental health providers recommend the use of apps, as people often benefit from having structured exercises to work on between sessions.
Should you have any specific questions about whether adding an online program to your current mental health treatment is likely to be helpful, you should talk with your health care provider.
3. How do your recommended online stress management programs work?
These programs teach a variety of skills that can help you cope with whatever problems you are experiencing. For example, if you are having trouble sleeping, you might learn some relaxation exercises that you can try before going to bed. Alternatively, if you are feeling anxious throughout the day, you might benefit from learning new ways of thinking about and responding to the stressors in your life.
The online program that we recommend is typically an app that you can use on your smartphone or computer whenever you want. For the program to be successful, you will need to devote a certain amount of time each day to learning and practicing these new skills. For most people, this small investment of time is well worth it.
4. What if I don’t like the online stress management program recommended to me?
When we match you with an online program, we ask that you stick with it for at least four weeks. One reason for this is that it is not uncommon for people to feel a bit uncomfortable when they first use online programs. Fortunately, this discomfort often goes away as they master the new skills they are learning, but this can sometimes take a couple of weeks. Sticking with it is important.
It is possible, though, that despite our best efforts, the online program we initially recommend is not a good fit for you. In that case, we still ask you to try to use it for the rest of the trial period. If you absolutely hate the online program and prefer to stop using it, that is ok; we will understand. Unfortunately, due to the vast numbers of people we are assisting, we will not be able to send you a new program until the end of the trial period.
5. Will my personal information remain private?
There is little risk that your confidentiality will be breached.
The reason is that your identifying information (i.e., name, address, phone number, and email address) and your personal information (i.e, your questionnaire responses) will be stored in separate password-protected files. The Principal Investigator is the only person who will have access to both files. And this researcher will look up your name only if he needs to contact you for some reason after the study is done. None of the other researchers will have access to the file containing your name or other identifying information.
6. Who funds this initiative?
m-HELP is a nationwide collection of studies each with their own funders.
- RE-GROW is funded by grants from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and from the U.S. Veterans Health Administration and by donations to the Precision Treatment of Mental Disorders Foundation through the Giving Back Fund.