Mental health applications, FirstNet® App Catalog an invaluable resource for first responder mental health

August 10, 2021

by Mostafa Sanati - FirstNet Health and Wellness Program and Dr. Anna Fitch Courie - Director, Responder Wellness, FirstNet Program at AT&T

"mHealth" is a term widely used to refer to any healthcare service accessed through mobile electronic means such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, wearable electronics, and others. Professor Robert Istepanian first coined the term and described it as "emerging mobile communications and network technologies for healthcare."1 mHealth is the evolutionary progress of traditional desktop or telephone healthcare services to the realm of mobile, handheld, and wearable technologies.

The term “mHealth” refers to the use of portable devices in healthcare settings. The mHealth market is expanding, right along with the daily advances in mobile technology. There is an app for almost anything imaginable in the ever-growing mobile application ecosystem, including apps focused on health and wellness. According to the Statista Research Department, as of May 2021 there were over 5.5 million applications in commercial app stores combined.2

More and more, mHealth is gaining acceptance in psychosocial wellness care.3 And mobile devices – because of their portability, ease of use, and connectivity – are ideal for providing mental health services to first responders. And various studies support the feasibility of mHealth apps. Using mobile mental health applications with the assistance of trained mental health providers has demonstrated positive outcomes.4 mHealth apps create an excellent opportunity for self-monitoring and self-reporting, which takes away the stigma of reporting a mental health crisis.

Mental health apps can reach first responders who would have previously gone without access to any form of mental healthcare services because the only option was traditional mental healthcare. These apps can target a broad spectrum of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, mindfulness, depression, and, most importantly, suicide prevention. Mobile health applications provide unconventional services, such as symptom reporting, on-demand support services, self-help and cognitive improvement, among other services.4

The availability and accessibility of mobile mental health applications make them an ideal candidate for first responders. With the demands of shift work, irregular hours, desires for confidentiality, and mental health stigma, this can be a game-changer for first responders addressing their mental health needs proactively, effectively, and efficiently. Additionally, first responders can self-report emotional symptom onset and duration when experiencing a mental health crisis. It is this characteristic that makes Mental health and wellness mHealth applications an invaluable resource for first responders.

The Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) National Center for PTSD have embraced mHealth technologies and created their own mental health app suite available for veterans on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.4

FirstNet is committed to first responder health and wellness and provides an expansive library of pre-evaluated and approved apps that FirstNet users can access to assist with their daily occupational responsibilities.

The FirstNet app catalog includes mental health apps designed to help first responders experiencing mental health distress or apps simply to engage with others in addressing social support for their overall mental wellness. Some of these include the BetterApp to promote better sleep;  ResponderRel8, to chat with peers who may be going through similar experiences and the Lighthouse Health & Wellness app, which provides access to health and wellness programs, and the Valor Training App, offers training and technology assistance resources for law enforcement officers.

The FirstNet app catalog includes over 170 apps and makes it easy for first responders to choose from a list of public safety relevant apps without searching through the numerous applications in commercial app stores. These applications provide first responders with the tools they need to address their mental wellness without worrying about being stigmatized. 

Mostafa (Moe) Sanati is a Doctorate in Nursing Practice student at the Ohio State University.  He currently serves as an intern at the FirstNet Health and Wellness Program. In addition, Moe currently works as a trauma nurse in Ohio. Before his nursing career, Moe served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT for the village of Versailles. Moe has a master's in business administration (MBA) from SolBridge International School of Business in South Korea and a bachelor's degree in engineering. Moe is passionate about public health, especially that of first responders and Veterans.

Dr. Anna Fitch Courie, Director of Responder Wellness, FirstNet Program at AT&T, is a nurse, Army wife, former university faculty, and author. Dr. Courie has worked for over 20 years in the health care profession including bone marrow transplant, intensive care, public health, and health promotion practice. Dr. Courie holds a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Clemson University; a Master’s in Nursing Education from the University of Wyoming; and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Ohio State University. Dr. Courie’s area of expertise is integration of public health strategy across disparate organizations to achieve health improvement goals.

1 Istepanian R. S. H., Pattichis C. S., Laxminaryan S., (2006). Ubiquitous M-Health Systems and the Convergence Towards 4G Mobile Technologies.

2 Statista Research Department Statista Research Department, & 27, M. (2021, May 27). Biggest app stores in the world 2020. Statista.

3 Kenny, R., Fitzgerald, A., Segurado, R., & Dooley, B. (2020). Is there an app for that? A cluster randomised controlled trial of a mobile app–based mental health intervention. Health Informatics Journal, 26(3), 1538–1559.

4 Gould, C. E., Kok, B. C., Ma, V. K., Zapata, A. M. L., Owen, J. E., & Kuhn, E. (2019). Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense mental health apps: A systematic literature review. Psychological Services, 16(2), 196–207. /10.1037/ser0000289

FirstNet and the FirstNet logo are registered trademarks of the First Responder Network Authority. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.