SMS can improve mental healthcare, study claims

Text messages between therapists and patients can have a big impact on overall mental healthcare, a new study has found.

Research conducted at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia has found that texting enhances support and improves outcomes for mental health patients. Participants in the study who received text messages from their therapist were found to need fewer sessions as they “felt a sense of being supported even when they weren’t in therapy”, medicalxpress.com reports.

Niranjan Bidargaddi, associate professor of e-health research at Flinders, said: “The good thing about the SMS is that it’s affordable and readily available to the majority of the population, yet it hasn’t really been studied for its potential benefits in mental health care.

“Mobile phones and text messages are something that people already use, so if we can integrate them into existing health care we could potentially engage with and support people with mental health issues more effectively.”

The study, which will be published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in the coming weeks, came as a result of Mental Health Week, which runs between Sunday October 5 and Saturday October 11. World Mental Health Day takes place on October 10, blogs.flinders.edu.au notes.

Bidargaddi referred to the importance of the text message’s content. “The timing of the texts was scheduled but the content was tailored to each individual so they didn’t sound like automated messages, they were actually coming from the client’s therapist.

“Once consumers finish a session they don’t necessarily engage in the day-to-day activities and behaviours recommended by their therapist but our results show that something as simple as sending a text message could keep them on track between sessions.”