Mental health issues affect a lot of students, and dealing with them can be both difficult and frustrating. UBC Counselling wait times can be frustrating and even if your insurance covers off-campus counselling services, only a few appointments may be covered. Since us millennials spend all our time glued to our phones anyways, it makes sense that we might turn to mental health apps as a solution. Although they can’t take the place of tools like therapy and medication, they can help on a day-to-day basis and in-between appointments.
These apps are not intended to replace professional help, and work best as part of a larger mental health strategy. Check out our articles on seeking therapy and dealing with mental health crises, and don’t hesitate to call a crisis line if you’re in distress or need to talk to someone right away.
Developed jointly by AnxietyBC and BC Mental Health and Addiction services, this app focuses on understanding anxiety and challenging it with constructive thinking and behaviour. The app lets you pick relevant situations, including “Managing Worry,” “Tackling Social Fears” and “Riding Out Intense Emotions.” You can rate your anxiety level and record your symptoms, which can help when you’re talking to doctors or mental health professionals about treatment.
The app also suggests helpful strategies like using positive thoughts to replace negative ones, relaxation strategies that include visualizations and breathing exercises, and constructive activities like talking to friends and going for a walk while listening to your favourite music.
An app from Island Health, BoosterBuddy has a unique approach, encouraging you to take care of a cartoon animal by taking care of yourself. If your buddy is sleeping, you need to wake them up by completing small tasks. The activities are all designed to improve your mental health in small ways such as planning what you’re going to eat for dinner and baking cookies with a friend. Helping your friendly cartoon pal can help motivate you to help yourself, and the suggestions are positive and easy to follow.
The app also encourages you to create a crisis plan in the case of an emergency. It also provides specific coping strategies for different problems. If you take medications, you can also ask your buddy to remind you when it’s time to take them and the app can also track your moods over time. If you use alcohol or drugs, the app also has the option to keep track of your use to see if it affects your mental health.
SAM (Self-help for Anxiety Management)
SAM is developed by the University of the West of England, and takes a similar approach to MindShift. This app includes information about what anxiety is and what causes it. It allows you to keep track of what makes you anxious and develop your own “anxiety toolkit” over time. Its toolkit strategies include physical and mental relaxation, as well as techniques for positive thinking. SAM also displays a graph of your anxiety over time, so you can keep track of any trends, which can help when talking to a doctor about problems you may be having. This app is useful for dealing with and keeping track of your anxieties.
Stop, Breathe and Think (SBT)
This app focuses on relaxing meditations. It invites you to check in daily by noting your mental state, physical feelings and selecting any emotions you’re feeling at the moment. SBT then recommends meditations from its library. You can pay for specific upgrades (including meditations narrated by singer k.d. lang), but they have a wide variety of free options.
Meditations include general mindfulness exercises as well as meditations on particular topics such as gratitude and change. If relaxing while listening to rain sounds is more your speed, they also have a timed meditation option. SBT keeps track of your “weekly settledness” for you, and you can earn stickers over time as you complete more meditations. Although this app doesn’t provide the same psychological focus as some others, it is very relaxing and encourages you to take the time to check in with yourself and how you’re doing.
This is another app without a major medical endorsement, although they do have a clinical psychologist on their staff. Like other apps, Pacifica offers relaxation exercises and helpful strategies, but uniquely lets you input your energy level before it suggests any — meaning they’re easier to complete even if you’re feeling tired. However, some of its more specific meditations require a paid premium subscription.
Pacifica also has a fancy system for tracking your habits — both good and bad. You can pick daily habits from their list that also includes taking medication, which boosts your health score, and drinking, which lowers it. You can also create your own daily habits and adjust the levels of preset ones (for example, deciding how much sleep you want to get). This app does offer some unique features, but the fact that some useful features are behind a paywall could be discouraging.