Editor’s note: The following feature is the third in a series highlighting May as mental health month.

It’s like Pinterest for mental wellness.

The “myStrength” app, offered to clients and the general community through Burke, asks users to choose a photo that best corresponds to that day’s thoughts and energy levels. In addition to recording moods and setting goals, the app customizes itself to offer short articles and videos on topics such as calming and relaxation techniques.

‘One more resource’

“It’s an additional tool,” says Burke training specialist Shannon Story. “We can’t be with clients 24 hours a day, but if something happens, say, at night, it connects them with one more resource.”

Various modules address issues such as depression and alcohol use. In its third year of use at Burke, myStrength is an example of how technology is being implemented to support mental health, something that proves particularly useful in rural areas that traditionally under-served.

Push toward telemedicine

Limited availability of psychiatrists and a population that is spread thinly over 10 counties has led to a recent push toward telemedicine appointments, and Burke has thus far installed required software at the majority of jails and hospitals in its service area. In 2008, the mental health provider linked 1,520 clients to specialists through broadband. In 2015, that number rose to 12,000.

“It’s helped a lot as far as wait time,” Story said. “We are growing by leaps and bounds and this is a big need.”

Depression and anxiety

Two of the biggest mental health issues in East Texas, like anywhere, are depression and anxiety, says Burke therapist Stephanie Knott, who travels between her office in Nacogdoches and Lufkin to see clients.

Knott’s clients were among those participating in the depression collaborative project, a 2015 study of clients with major depression who were given access to the myStrength app.

Those who used the technology regularly reported significantly reduced symptoms, said Knott, who is also a regular user.

“I do my mood check and set goals,” she said. “I don’t want to tell them to do something I’m not already doing.”

For everyone

Burke clients are given customized access, but the community can access and use the myStrength app by visiting myburke.org/mystrength. The app can also be downloaded on Apple and Android devices.

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