PEORIA, Ill. — A smartphone app is offering rural residents and farmers a unique way to access mental health care and therapy.

The app, SilverCloud, debuted in January 2017. Since then, the app has gone through some tweaks to make it more widely available and the response to it has been positive.

“We feel like it’s a really useful tool for the farming community,” said Luke Raymond.

Raymond manages the app, along with a team of behavioral health navigators. He is the manager of behavioral health services for OSF Healthcare in Peoria and has worked as a mental health counselor.

SilverCloud connects adults in the OSF Healthcare service area with a system where they can access mental health help and therapy on their own time, in their own homes or offices.

“It can be delivered via computer, tablet, smartphone, anywhere anybody has internet access,” Raymond said.

The app isn’t a telehealth program, in which the user would be connected via a live screen to a caregiver. Rather, it supplies a series of tools that people can use to identify issues and then treat themselves. That approach can fit well with rural areas and farm communities.

“A farmer isn’t worried about going to talk to a doctor about blood pressure, but he might be worried about going to talk to someone about a down mood or the anxiety he’s feeling. SilverCloud gives them the opportunity to have a virtual front door to getting that help. They can walk in virtually instead of what may be a harder step of making a phone call to their doctor or talking about it when they go to a medical appointment,” Raymond said.

While the app isn’t person-to-person counseling, the person using the app does get connected with a human contact.

“SilverCloud provides users with access to the same kinds of tools and skills and practices that I, as a counselor or a therapist, would be working with in a counseling session. They do things like thought/feeling behavior matching, guided relaxation, reframing negative thoughts, it’s based on those skills,” Raymond said.

Those using the app will be provided with benchmarks of their progress.

“When someone signs up for SilverCloud, they are assigned a supporter. That supporter will give them check-ins, weekly or biweekly reviews of their progress and provide them with any kind of outreach,” Raymond said.

The supporter also is there to help if symptoms don’t improve or if they get worse.

“If red flags are identified or if the patient gets worse, they will connect them to live resources,” Raymond said.

Jeannine Otto can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or jotto@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.

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