Date of this Version
Perez-Villagomez, L. & Andrews, A. 2023. Mental Health Applications as a Resource for Reducing Access Disparities? A Case Example from a Disaster Mental Health App. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Past research indicates Latinx individuals underutilize mental health services when it comes to addressing their mental health concerns, but often fail to mention the barriers to underutilization. Systemic barriers to seeking care largely fall under two larger umbrellas: cost and availability. A focus on whether disparities observed in traditional mental health services persisted for a trauma-focused app that recruited participants from the 2017 Hurricane outbreak provides us a unique outlook on a comparative analysis of utilization and engagement between the applications, Bounce Back Now (BBN) and Enhanced Usual Care. BBN is made up of four major components including tracking, coping and quick tips, self-help components (Activate, Write, Sleep), and the Get Help feature that provides immediate professional support. A sample of 1,357 help-seeking participants allowed for the automatic tracking of each participant’s use of each app component. Comparisons of Latinx participant rates for utilization and benefits from the app compared with non-Latinx participants indicated Latinx participants were less likely to have received talk therapy within the past month (w/o control covariates) and more likely to have received medication within the last month. Overall, Latinx participants had higher engagement rates across all app components excluding MyPlan and access of Activate. Additionally, Latinx participants reported higher baseline symptoms across sleep difficulties, PTSD, and depression suggesting lower access to care and a higher rate of delayed care. These findings highlight the importance of providing better availability and dissemination of apps for Latinx populations (e.g., more bilingual apps).