Harmful Help?: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the mHealth App VOS to Join the Current Debate Regarding the Use and Regulations of Mental Health Apps
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The digital neoliberal era of the 21st century is characterised by individualised users who may navigate through the free market and select their personalised online path. Every smartphone owner may download freely countless mobile applications that provide them with immediate access to desired services or information. As it is not challenging to “sell health”, numerous medical apps are available on the market today, including mental mHealth applications. This study questions the current regulatory policy regarding these apps, highlighting that even developers with no psychological expertise may freely publish them. In turn, consumers with no previous mental health care experience may download them. This thesis focuses on a specific attempt to revise the current regulations proposed by Matthews et al. and elaborates on it with further improvements and suggestions, mainly directed at the safety of laypeople. To investigate if there is space for such revision, the study conducts an appropriated version of critical discourse analysis (CDA) of the mental mHealth app VOS. Assuming that the guidelines are already reconsidered, the case study is explored through the textual and discursive layers. It focuses on the app’s functionality, use of language, accessibility, accuracy, marketability, production, and consumption. The main findings argue that the revised guidelines require the app to be based on accepted mental health care theories and methods and designed in collaboration with mental health specialists. Moreover, the app must employ specific language that does not blur the line between mental well-being and medical help and provide an accessible and simple design that anyone may navigate through. The revised regulations enable instant use for laypeople who do not have a psychologist to guide them for financial or social reasons. Such regulations imply the consensus that mental health should not be considered a personal commodity but a human right.