When it comes to mental health, smartphones usually get a bad rap – studies have linked their overuse to loneliness, depression and sleep deprivation. But there’s also a growing wellbeing movement built around our phones. A search for ‘mental health’ on the App Store or Google Play throws up hundreds of apps geared towards every aspect of our mental health. With mental health services increasingly stretched, can these apps provide support to children and young people who are unable to – or don’t want to – access conventional therapies?
We’ve asked our Fegans’ counsellors to recommend their favourite apps* and podcasts. The following are a great source of self-help strategies, and although the apps can be used by themselves, it is also helpful to access conventional therapy if the circumstances require it.
Calm Harm is an app designed to help people resist or manage the urge to self- harm. It’s private and password protected, and is based on the principles of dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). DBT is a type of talking therapy that’s often effective in people with mood disorders. The app provides tasks that encourage users to distract themselves from urges to self-harm and help manage their “emotional mind” in a more positive way.
Big White Wall is an online community for people who are stressed, anxious or feeling low. The service has an active forum with round-the-clock support from trained professionals. You can talk anonymously to other members and take part in group or one-to-one therapy with therapists.
Breethe’s guided meditations series, inspirational talks, and master classes from mindfulness coach Lynne Goldberg can help better navigate life’s challenges and enjoy improved peace of mind. The app’s sleep music playlists, nature sounds, and bedtime readings help towards a more restful sleep.
For Me (Childline) was created by four teenagers who realised there was an urgent need for young people to have easy access to confidential advice and support. When Childline first launched over 30 years ago all contact was over the phone, with many calls being made from telephone boxes. This app is now available as a free download so young people can easily access Childline’s online services. These include: 1-2-1 chat with a counsellor / ‘Ask Sam’ problem pages / Private Locker – a personal area where young people can track their mood and write down their thoughts.
The Clear Fear app powered by stem4 provides ways for children and young people to manage symptoms of anxiety. Developed by a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, together with ideas from young people, Clear Fear uses CBT to help change anxious thoughts and emotions, alter anxious behaviours and calm fear responses. The app also has helpful descriptions of the different ways in which anxiety shows, resources and a ‘grit box’ to boost resilience. The app can also be personalised and there is the ability to track progress and notice change.
The Headspace app is a great choice to learn the essentials of meditation and mindfulness, with a free 10-part “basics” course and whimsical animations. The sessions, which come in three, five or 10-minute chunks, are easy to follow, focusing on breathing and scanning through the body to check in on how one feels.
Kooth offers online emotional and mental health support for children and young people aged between 11 – 24 years in the South East, and is available up to 10pm every day. It is free, anonymous and completely confidential.
Bromley Mindfulness Podcasts https://bromleymindfulness.org.uk/podcasts/
*Please be aware that these apps cannot be an effective replacement for standard therapies. Remember to choose them wisely and use them mindfully. They can be a first step towards getting help, for instance, or a useful stopgap for those waiting for therapy .