Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has just released the smartphone app “PTSD Coach Canada.” (Unfortunate timing in the app name, given the change to the diagnostic title in the new released DSM-5).
From the Google Play store:
Together with professional treatment, PTSD Coach Canada provides you dependable resources you can trust. If you have, or think you might have PTSD, this app is for you. Family and friends can also learn from this app. PTSD Coach Canada provides you with information and self-help tools based on research.
The PTSD Coach Canada app can help you learn about and manage symptoms that can occur after trauma. Features include:
* Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work
* Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms
* Convenient, easy-to-use tools to help you handle stress symptoms
* Direct links to support and help
* Always with you when you need it
First, we very much like that this app signals recognition from the Canadian government of mental health issues, and technological advances that are changing the nature of client/treatment interactions (i.e. mHealth).
From a design standpoint we like that is light on size (for fast first-time install), and has auto-updates that will communicate with your device as changes are announced and/or made.
We also like that is available on the iPhone and Android devices, but it is not iPad compatible, which excludes a large population of users. And considering that many veterans are senior now with challenged eyesight, the small app screen of a smartphone seems prohibitive.
From a content perspective:
- We like that the usage disclaimer is comprehensive and warns against self-diagnosis. But we don’t like that “disclaimer” and “setup” are rolled into one. Upon first use we were not prepared for setting things up, and had expected a menu of choices or some kind of break to note the app was switching gears to a new topic.
- That said, we like that the setup notes that you need to immediately determine friends, loved ones and health professionals who can help when stressed, pictures you find comforting or funny, and songs that are relaxing. The instructions to do all of this though, are a bit confusing and rely upon a lot of user tech knowledge (minimal knowledge, but knowledge just the same).
- We definitely not fond of the dark grey background and white contrasting text colour pallette. That is kind of depressing.
- We like the audio option for listening to each section (e.g. “What is PTSD?”)
- We don’t like the typographical errors
- We very much like the self-assessment measure that will provide ongoing storage and recall of the user’s self-assessment results, and email a reminder when the assessment is due. This allows for tracking over time that could, potentially, influence treatment-seeking, progress reporting, identifying setbacks, etc.
- We don’t like the placement of “Schedule Assessments” as a button on the menu that is presented after the original assessment. That original assessment asks if you want to do the scheduling and gives you options, and then this same button ask the same information.
- We find the tools for managing PTSD of great variety, easy to use, and quite interesting. For example, positive imagery using your pre-selected calming image and audio. Better still, these tools are categorized according to different symptoms (e.g. worried/anxious management tools versus anger management tools).
- We very much like the underlying treatment message which supports cognitive behavioural type therapies, sometimes combined with medication(s).
- And we very much like the “Find Support” area that utilizes the user’s own identified support network as well as assistance contacting the Veterans Affairs Assistance Line.
- We question, overall, whether this app will be useful for the public, considering the support numbers provided. However all other sections are applicable. And there is an option mentioned for non-Veterans contact assistance (9–1-1 but understandably nothing more specific).
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