coronavirus pandemic

If You Use Mental Health Apps Keep Your Privacy in Mind

Consumer Reports says some information you share on mental health apps might not stay private

NBC Universal, Inc.

The coronavirus pandemic has added stress, anxiety and sadness to the lives of many Americans. Consumer Reports found many people are downloading mental health apps to help. However, you should try to find out what they do with the information you share first.

"What companies tell you about what they do with your data is often pretty vague and confusing and it's usually buried in privacy policies," said Thomas Germain, Tech Editor at Consumer Reports. "It can be hard to find."

There are many kinds of mental health apps. Some offer guided meditations, while others can offer appointments with licensed therapists. But not all of them are protected by HIPPA, the laws that protect information you share with a doctor in person.

Consumer Reports looked at several popular apps and found that many of them sent information to third parties like Facebook and Google. The information is usually used for advertising and business research. While it's common, it might not be what you expect from an app focused on mental health.

"We didn't see these apps sharing details about your condition or what you tell your therapist," said Germain. "But they may let other companies know you're using mental health apps."

While these apps did not share extremely private information, CR says you should know when and if your data is being shared.

"If you're using a mental health app, be sure it's clear about who will be administering your care," said Germain. "It's worth seeking out licensed mental health professionals, and there are plenty of services that will connect you with them."

There are many ways to try and find affordable mental health care or teletherapy. CR has listed several ways to try and receive care here.

If you or a loved one is in need of mental health resources in San Diego County, talk to a counselor any time of the day, seven days a week via the San Diego Access & Crisis Line (ACL) at 1-888-724-7240. You can also chat with a team member here. More resources are available through the county's Behavioral Health Services website.

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