The hype behind the screening tool called ‘WhatsMyM3’ developed by medical team formerly employed by the National Institute of Mental Health is with 27 questions it can tell you instantly and remotely if you if you are at increased risk for depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Supposedly, it is being touted in mental health circles as a quick and reliable way of screening for depression.
WhatsMyM3 is available as a mobile app ($2.99 for iPhone, iPad and Android), or free on the web @ WhatsMyM3.com. The company reportedly has no financial or other relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. Using a 27-item questionnaire, for users over 18, responses generate an individual score; 33 or greater indicates a significant risk of mood and anxiety disorders. Four sub-scores reflect risk for each of the four major conditions.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not threatened that a $2.99 application can out-perform me. The public has long been able to access psychological information by book, magazine, computer, smartphone, and second opinion. It is not information which is the issue, but lack of information or connection which causes me concern.
Let’s say Sally takes the 27-item questionnaire and determines she is suffering from Bipolar, a condition which she has witnessed a family member struggle with for years unsuccessfully. Sally may come to some pretty drastic conclusions about herself and make impacting decisions without benefit of a qualified therapist to discuss her many hopeful options….including the need for confirming this diagnosis. Sally may also feel involuntarily stigmatized by a diagnosis before it has been confirmed by an actual Mental Health Professional.
Many of these disorders are not properly or ethically diagnosable in a single hour, face-to-face session with a qualified Mental Health Practioner …let alone by a computer in differential logical sequence. Many require session time and repeated observation of the client before such diagnosis can be made…are the former NIH docs ‘observing’ you by smart phone over a course of time before spitting out the serious diagnosis of PTSD?
Furthermore, notice the language used on the WhatsMyM3 website:
“These are serious conditions that affect, not only your quality of life, but your physical health.
Did you know that having a mood disorder may increase your heart attack risk and decrease your ability to recover from other illnesses like stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cancer?
Your M3 score is a number that will help you and your doctor understand if you have a treatable mood disorder, like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or post traumatic stress disorder. You can even monitor your score to see how your mental health is changing over time.”
Really? They dared to make the leap for people who are concerned enough to be seeking out this web service to now scare them to think that they are going to have incurable diseases as a result? What shameless characters! I am sure that if confronted directly they would calmly pull out the statistics on which those statements where based….but the placement of such statements are hardly ethical. Respectable clinicians don’t try to scare you.
If you are concerned about areas of your mental health; your depression, anxiety, worry, stress, ability to cope, anger management, social skills, sexual concerns, addiction, grief, caring for others, dreams, gambling, food issues, memory concerns – then consult a therapist, counselor, or social worker. You can ask the nurse at your family doctor’s for a name, search the web, or visit Psychology Today’s referral site. Don’t use your kid’s game system, ouigi board, or phone to mess around…but get a real trained person. If the person you find isn’t the right one for you …go find another one, plenty of fish in the sea…you deserve the best for you.
Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S. is a Psychotherapist practicing in the Lehigh Valley, PA who has a degree in Clinical Psychology and Counseling Psychology and experience with clients with issues varying from addiction, grief, pain, and trauma. Gail-Elaine also performs advocacy, writing, speaking, and internet counseling; see www.tinkerpsychotherapy.com for details.