Six apps that help mind your mental health

As Green Ribbon month draws to a close, we take a look at how tech can help manage your mental health

May marks Green Ribbon month, the national campaign that encourages us to talk to each other about our mental health and to challenge the stigma the still remains around depression and a whole host of psychological issues.

So as the month draws to a close we decided to have a look at a couple of apps that might come in useful if you’re feeling a little bit stressed or need some time to think things through. However if you are in distress please seek the support of a medical practitioner. Details of the HSE’s information website and the Samaritan’s free phone number are available below.

Headspace

You’ve probably heard about Headspace, it was made famous by Harry Potter actress Emma Watson in 2013 and it’s since gone on to gain over five million followers. 

Basically Headspace is a guided meditation app. To start with it offers a ten day programme of ten minute sessions, for free. After that you can subscribe and if you like, focus on particular areas you’d like to improve on.  It aims to promote a more mindful way of living, in bite size chunks, for people too busy to take time out. It will also give you free bonus gifts if you complete seven straight days of meditation and sends you reminder emails if you haven’t made use of the service in a while.

It’s a good app and well designed, and even if you haven’t tried it out yet you’ve probably heard about it given how successful it’s been, anyone I’ve spoken to says it’s popular for good reason.

7 Cups

There’s nothing more Irish than sitting down to solve the World’s problems over a cup of tea. Well 7 Cups aims to take the tradition one step further.

It works by connecting users to a registered listener for a chat. The service has provided training for all of its listeners.  It says those who join have experience of feeling in distress or in need of support and want to give something back. It aims to provide a support network to those who might not be ready to discuss their problems with family and friends. The course is designed by Psychologist Glen Moriarty. However please note this does not replace direct treatment by a trained medical practitioner.

Calm

And then there’s the Calm App. Calm reminds me of those “soothing sounds” cds and tapes that were popular in the 90’s. Yes they were a bit kitsch, but you have to admit you did get a better night’s sleep after using them. This app like Headspace is another guided meditation programme. It aims to bring you “clarity and peace of mind”. The idea is to help you fit in moments of quiet relaxation into your daily routine. It starts off with a simple breathing exercise and then moves onto areas that you’d like to focus on. As I said this one is very similar to Headspace, so I think it’s down to personal preference. I quite like this app, it’s very simple to use and doesn’t immediately require you to create an account, which in my opinion can be off-putting.

Youthbeyondblue The Check-in

This app is aimed at younger people who may find it difficult to talk to your friends about mental health. It’ll give you conversation starters to help you check in and make sure your friend is ok. It’s quite a simple idea, and seems intuitive to use. It provides advice from young people who’ve already started the conversation with their friends and also gives you tips on how to improve your own self care. It does provide details for helpline services, however as it’s an Aussie app these are only Australian based for the time being.

ThoughtDiaryPro

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a very common treatment for depression, stress and other mental difficulties. As part of this many therapists and counsellors will recommend keeping a diary to document your moods and progress. This app aims to make it easier to actually keep that diary and make it routine, and given that most people carry their phone everywhere, it’s more convenient than having to bring a notebook with you.  It also encourages you to rate thoughts that are logged and to take note of how much you believe each thought. It also has a nice feature that allows you to email reports from the app to your therapist. However a €4.99 it’s a bit pricey.

SAM APP

This app is specifically targeted at people who suffer from anxiety. It aims to help you understand anxiety, what triggers it for you and how to manage it. The app was designed the University of West England at Bristol. It works by asking you to measure your anxiety and then takes you through some focusing and breathing exercise. While the app is very basic, it’s simple to use and the step by step approach makes it attractive.

These are just some of the apps aimed at the growing number of people who want to take better care of their mental health. There are dozens more out there so it’s about finding which one suits you. Calm and Headspace are my favourites, I particularly like how they but work with short segments of time, for some reason it makes it less daunting.

If you’d like more information about the Green Ribbon campaign go to www.greenribbon.ie. For support services available offline check out www.yourmentalhealth.ie or call the Samaritans for free on 116 123.