At 28 years old, Jill was working as a rural nurse and midwife until one day, she felt like she just couldn’t do it any longer. She experienced what she describes as “the deepest, most melancholic, completely-void-of-emotion internal pain that I’d ever felt in my life”.
As someone who’d suffered depression and anxiety since the age of 13, Jill knew that this depressive episode was different — this time she required inpatient medical care.
While she had become used to adopting a ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ mindset at work so as not to trouble her patients, she realised that were she to continue at her job, her depression might begin to impact the care she could provide her patients. Rather than see that happen, Jill quit the job she loved, relocated to Melbourne, and sought care at Dandenong Hospital. Later, she went to a recovery care facility before seeking treatment from Dr. Siotia at St John of God Pinelodge Clinic.
An unconventional treatment
Typically Dr. Siotia encourages his patients to use a paper-based mood diary, but in this case Jill had shown him the MoodTracker App, which he thought was just as effective.
Designed to help people who suffer from depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, the MoodTracker app allows patients to rate their moods on a scale from 1-5. It also allows them to add notes to the rating, as well as share the information electronically with their caregiver.
While Dr. Siotia doesn’t personally endorse MoodTracker, he believed the app could play a helpful role in Jill’s case, because she had changed medications and dosages many times over the preceding years.
Dr. Siotia explained, “There are three benefits to an app or mood diary like MoodTracker. The first is diagnostic. The app can help paint a picture of a patient’s moods over several months, helping a clinician differentiate between a low mood that is in depression or whether the patient has bipolar disorder.
“The second thing these apps are good for is to let people see a more realistic picture of what is going on as people tend to forget good times and remember bad times much more. They remind people, oh, I did have a good day on tuesday. Because often they forget the good day they had on tuesday and only remember the bad day they had on Monday.
“This is positive reinforcement to a patient that the medications are working because sometimes these medications take time and it can be quite frustrating for a patient.
“And, finally, even when a patient is discharged from my care, I encourage them to keep a check on their mood. So the apps are quite good for relapse prevention because a patient can see their mood is coming down and they know they need to seek help.”
Jill’s experience with MoodTracker
Fortunately, Jill found the app very simple to use. Once a day, she’d be prompted to rate her mood. Then, she could track the results on a timeline. As she puts it, “You can scroll along and see ‘In the past 3 months I’ve been mainly a 3, but there were times where I was a 4 out of 5 and a couple of days where I had a 2, but the notes said I had a migraine that day’… it’s just so simple and clear-cut.”
Jill especially appreciates how valuable MoodTracker has been to her treatment. Although she’s only been using it for 3 months, she says, “It’s basically just self-awareness and being able to recognise when you do need to see your practitioners more frequently or for them to recognise a pattern within you.
“Bipolar depression is very difficult to diagnose, you need to know someone over a couple of years really, so if there’s a couple of months where I’m 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, and then I’m back down to a 1, that would be a flag, you know?”
Clearly, MoodTracker has the potential to be very useful for both physicians and patients. Not only can it help physicians with diagnoses, but it also can help them prescribe medications based on an overall view of a patient’s moods, rather than just relying on self-reporting.
Jill agrees, adding, “You might be feeling crappy for two days and then freak out and suddenly go to a psychiatrist and go, I’ve been feeling depressed for two months, you know, I think it helps clarify what’s actually going on from a practitioner/psychiatrist perspective.”
Patient Engagement = Happier Outcome
As a result of using MoodTracker, Jill says she’s definitely more engaged and feels like MoodTracker provides a more accurate depiction of how she’s feeling. However, she doesn’t just attribute her improvement to MoodTracker. Dr. Siotia’s ongoing support has also played a big role.
Jill says, “I like the rapport that I have with him because he really does listen. He listens, makes eye contact, he has good interpersonal skills, whereas some professionals that I have seen in the past are very quick to jump to conclusions and really not hear what you’re saying. They want to quickly label you… just to feel like they’re doing something.
“Whereas [Dr. Siotia] will take on board all of the life stressors that are going on, or whatever your circumstances are, help you to sort of think them through. He does that quite openly in front of you as well so you really make a partnership in your care, rather than seeing someone who just goes Oh, you said this, so I think you’re that.”
Although Jill still has challenges, MoodTracker has made a big difference in her life. As she puts it, “It’s a nice way to just mentally check in with myself every day and go How am I feeling? How was my day?”
Because Jill is taking an active role in her recovery, her ability to manage her depression is improving — an outcome that can be attributed, in part, to her increased engagement as a patient.
For more information about MoodTracker, visit www.moodtracker.com.