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Health app thrives during crisis

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Providers of mental health app Thrive: Mental Wellbeing have seen a 211% increase in downloads in 12 months, with an almost fivefold increase in the three months after Covid started.

Founded by trained psychiatrist Dr Andres Fonseca and clinical psychologist Dr Adam Huxley, London-based Thrive Therapeutic Software is a social enterprise that provides an evidence-based solution for the prevention, screening and self-management of depression and anxiety, the two most common conditions affecting people at work.

Thrive uses validated clinical scales to screen for mental health conditions and, where necessary, prompts users to seek help and enables them to find support options.

The developers say its self-management function allows people affected by mild depression and anxiety to recover in half the time it would normally take without Thrive, avoiding the need to sit on NHS waiting lists.

For businesses, they claim the app can reduce sickness absences, help employees return to work sooner, detect conditions before they become severe, improve recovery rates, track ROI, report usage data and reduce health claims.

Thrive: Mental Wellbeing is currently available to more than 3.3 million people, with app downloads remaining at an all-time high since the start of the pandemic, seemingly driven by increased uncertainty and lack of alternative services available.

The growth over the last six months compared to the previous six has been 241% and use of the in-app coaching – a human-led chat service that connects individuals with graduate psychologists – rose by 329% during lockdown.

Also, the 3 months after Covid showed a 425% increase in downloads over the three months pre-Covid.Thrive chief clinical officer Dr Huxley said: “We were always expecting people to struggle with the adjustment.

“The difference here is that the whole planet has had to adjust to something pretty significant. With adjustment difficulties it’s often the case that you feel powerless to be able to control the outcome.

“We were anticipating some people struggling with the uncertainty and those things make us feel more stressed, more anxious and more uncertain about the future.

“It proved our hypothesis that people need help but weren’t always able to access it through the conventional route because of large waiting lists or barriers to entry.’’

But even before Covid there was growing interest in Thrive, with a 381% increase in downloads in March 2020 compared to March 2019.

Dr Huxley added: “There’s been a definite shift over the past couple of years in terms of mental wellbeing being out on the agenda of employee welfare. It has been put firmly on the list of employee benefits to provide to the workforce.

Employers have seen the benefit of having support for employees in relation to their mental health. Providing rapid access support means people don’t reach a point where they need to go off work onto long-term sickness.’’

There was a 76% increase in downloads since April across one of Thrive’s largest resellers supported clients. Music Support, a charity supporting all individuals in the music industry, showed significant uptake in numbers at the beginning of the pandemic with 89.4% of the workforce downloading and using the app within the first four weeks of lockdown and 560 users referred to further support services via the app.

Thrice plans to expand its services and produce new content to meet demand for condition specific interventions with a series of tailored cognitive behavioural therapy programmes to address conditions such as alcohol dependency or eating or sleep disorders.

Thrive already has clients in Australia and North America and plans to expand that reach.

Dr Huxley added: “We are able to localise it to different languages as and when required and our plan is to support everybody across the world if we are able to.’’

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