Do mental health apps work? HRI and The RBC Foundation want to find out

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As the need for mental health resources grows, technology will play an increasingly important role in the delivery of mental health services. In recent years, mental health apps have proliferated, providing smartphone users with fast and cost-effective access to portable resources that address everything from anxiety to eating disorders.

But how effective are mental health apps? With little to no research to support the claims of app developers, healthcare providers and consumers struggle to select and make the best use of these resources.

RBC funds project to help HRI find answers

A recent partnership between Homewood Research Institute (HRI) and The RBC Foundation will help to bring clarity to app users – particularly to youth who rely heavily on apps and smartphone technology.

The RBC Foundation has generously donated $207,000 to support a project aimed at examining the quality of mental health apps. HRI will work with faculty members from Harvard Medical School, including Dr. Yuri Quintana from the Division of Clinical Informatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, to carry out this research.

The funding announcement was made on May 9 at a public event hosted by HRI in Guelph, Ontario. Led by HRI, the mental health app project has two goals:

  1. Develop a framework to evaluate the effectiveness of mental health apps, and
  2. Identify top-quality apps aimed at addressing mental health problems, specifically among youth (pending further funding).

HRI has engaged Dr. Yuri Quintana, Director of Global Health Informatics at Harvard Medical School and a world leader in digital health services, to guide technical development on the project.

Building a roadmap for the future

As the field of digital psychiatry grows, so too does the need to identify credible online resources. By building tools that enable the large-scale evaluation of mental health apps, The RBC Foundation and HRI are helping to create an evidence-informed roadmap for future users of digital mental health services.

Outcomes of the project will be relevant to healthcare providers and other agencies around the globe that use mental health apps to supplement psychiatric treatment.


Representatives from the RBC Foundation proudly present HRI with funding to complete the mobile app project. (L-R: Mike DeBorger, Senior Account Manager, RBC; Rick Tessaro, Senior Account Manager, Real Estate, RBC; Francine Dyksterhuis, Regional President, Southwestern Ontario, RBC; Rob Schlegel, Chief Financial Officer, RBJ Schlegel Holdings; Dr. Roy Cameron, Executive Director, HRI; Mary Lou McCutcheon, Vice President, Commercial Financial Services, Agriculture, RBC; Mark Eaton, Vice President, Real Estate Markets, RBC; Cindy Chao, Senior Manager, Youth Strategy & Innovation, RBC)