There are apps to help you get a good night’s sleep, learn a new language, for calming colouring in, and increasingly, a plethora of apps to help manage your mental health. We even have a list of them on our website. However, how do you find one that works for you?.
While our list of apps was gathered through speaking with students, staff and other people working in mental health, it can be difficult to find one you like but also tricky to find one that is actually evidence based.
With the NHS Library of health apps closing recently there are few places to find reliable reviews of the apps you come across.
Newly released research carried out by SYP (read more) suggesting that only 20% of young people would access a self help website and just 8% would use an app to support their mental health. It might then come as a surprise that the new gaming app, Pokémon Go, is being lauded by users as a great self help tool for depression, anxiety and social phobia.
The AR (augmented reality) app uses real world landmarks and maps within the game- encouraging users to explore their neighbourhood and team up in a quest to catch ’em all.
This wknd, I took walks by myself & went out to play w/ friends. I feel rested & centered. This game is a big deal. https://t.co/i35PPoNiwK
— AnnaProsserRobinson (@AnnaProsser) July 11, 2016
User comments online via twitter supporting the app as a worthwhile tool “better than therapy” emerging just a week after the game’s release are also being supported by academics. It is thought that the combination of getting outside in the fresh air, socialising, exercise and working towards an achievable goal is a winning combination that could likely have a positive impact on gamers mental health and wellbeing.
In online magazine, Psychcentral, Psychologist, John M. Grohol, Psy.D explained that,
“We already know that exercise helps greatly with depression (along with virtually every other mental health problem), but being motivated to exercise when you’re depressed is a challenge. That’s why an engaging game like Pokémon Go can be helpful.” Psychcentral.com-acessed 12.07.16
You can find user comments by following the #PokemonGO tag on Twitter. While the location based app is definitely getting positive feedback, it has led to reports of some users to getting robbed or other pretty unpleasant situations. There are also questions being raised about the data that the app is collecting so it is a good idea to find out more about this before committing to a download.
— Samaritans (@samaritans) July 12, 2016
Technology moves at an exponential rate and burgeoning app stores are filled with self-help apps. For example there is currently an app under testing which can be used to track your mood by recording and analysing the tone and pace of your voice. This app is undergoing scientific review but many available apps will not.
As one study found there are far more apps available claiming to support mental health in comparison to the dearth of research papers on the effectiveness of apps. But there are some digital tools which have shown real benefit to users – mainly those developed by research universities and mental health organisations- such as those offered by the UK charity Mind.
It is important to remember that while an app has worked for one person- it might not be the right approach for you. There are plenty to try however and in time you might find one that really fits your needs. It could be that something like keeping a photo diary using an app like Instagram or the website Blip-photo is the thing that makes a positive impact on your mental health. Or it might be that becoming a Pokémaster will have the right blend of activity, goal setting and social connection.
Many people find taking a break from social media to be a bit like a holiday for their mental health. Studies are yet to show if people with excessive smartphone use are more likely to experience depression. Nevertheless, it is also good to remember that taking a break from technology and social media might also benefit your wellbeing.
Head over to our Support and Links section where you can find all the apps and online tools that our project has been recommended.
Want to share your experience of apps or online tools that you have used to support your mental health? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org