Tag Archives: self-help

15 Top Apps for Mental Health

For many people, apps are a part of our everyday living – from Uber, to conference schedules, to how we find our restaurants. They can also be part of our resilience toolkit.

When we consider a comprehensive strategy to suicide prevention and mental health promotion, it’s helpful to segment approaches into “upstream” (preventing problems before they emerge through self-help), “midstream” (catching emerging problems early and linking people to least restrictive support) and “downstream” (helping people with more serious mental health challenges and suicidal thoughts) tactics.

Thus, for this article, I have organized some of the most popular, best-researched and most innovative apps into these three categories.

Upstream: Resilience Self-Help Apps

  • Positive Activity Jackpot

Developed by t2health, this app uses the phone’s GPS system to find nearby enjoyable distractions. It comes with a clinician’s guide:

  • Calm

Calm is designed for people new to meditation – starting with guided practices from three to 25 minutes in length and focused on a variety of topics from sleep to gratitude.

  • Breathe to Relax

Another t2health app, Breathe2Relax, offers portable stress management focused on diaphragmatic breathing skill-building that helps with anger management, mood stabilization and anxiety reduction.

  • MoodKit

Based in cognitive behavioral therapy, MoodKit helps people improve their mood by engaging them in over 200 mood-enhancement activities like thought checking and journaling.

  • Pacifica

Pacifica is designed to help people who live with anxiety through soothing meditation and other personalized self-help strategies. Check out the science behind this strategy.

See also: Impact on Mental Health in Work Comp  

Midstream: Early Detection and Peer Support/Life Coach Apps

  • Life Armor

Another t2health app, this brief assessment tool helps users manage emerging symptoms like depression, sleep deprivation and post-traumatic stress. Videos share personal stories from warriors and military family members.

  • DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach

Through this app, users can master the skills of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), known for its effectiveness in regulating emotions and interpersonal relationships. Users remind themselves of skills they are trying to develop and track skill use.

  • TalkLife

Developed by folks at Harvard and MIT, TalkLife is a peer support platform that engages an online community when people just need someone who’s willing to listen. Posting can be done anonymously. Here is some research behind TalkLife.

  • Koko

Also developed by researchers at MIT, this app provides help for people in all states of distress from bullying and harassment, or even thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Koko provides evidence-based supportive interactions with users while referring users in crisis to international lifelines for immediate help.

  • Lantern

Lantern is a subscription service offering daily on-one-one coaching sessions and simple exercises combining cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and advice from real “professional coaches” trained in CBT. Recommended plans are personalized based on the user’s initial self-assessment.

See also: Top 10 Ways to Nurture Mental Health  

Downstream: On-Line Mental Health Services and Suicide Prevention Apps

  • Virtual Hope Box

The original non-app version of the Hope Box was developed as a tool to help therapists in clinical practice work with their suicidal clients so they can find reasons for living. Clients would find something like a shoe box and fill it with future goals, pictures of loved ones, bucket list experiences and the like. When clients felt their suicidal intensity increase, they would bring out the box to remind themselves of these things.

The Virtual Hope Box (VHB) does this and more. Still designed as something to augment treatment, the VHB helps people live through painful emotional experiences through distraction, inspiration, relaxation, coping, support and reasons for living.

  • BetterHelp

BetterHelp is a monthly subscription on-line counseling app that matches people with licensed mental health professionals and gives them unlimited access to these therapists.

  • My3App

My3app is a safety plan tool that helps people who are at high risk for suicide. It helps people develop a written list of coping strategies and sources of support. This app is based on content developed by B. Stanley & G. Brown (2008) and the Department of Veterans Affairs and is owned and maintained by Link2HealthSolutions, the administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline created in partnership with the California Mental Health Services Authority and was funded by the California Mental Health Services Act.

  • MyVAApps — Safety Plan for Veterans

Part of the MyVAApps suite of apps, the Safety Plan app helps users create or co-create with their therapist a safety plan that outlines specific steps to take when they face crises, including connecting to Veterans Crisis Line.

  • SAMHSA — Suicide Safe

This app is designed to help healthcare providers reduce patient suicide risk and is based on the SAFE-T Approach.

I am interested to hear about your experiences with these apps! What else have you used? What do you find to be most helpful in managing your resilience, mental health and emotional crises?

Using the Workplace to Prevent Suicide

Most deaths by suicide are among people of working age. Suicide is the leading cause of death for males aged 25–44 years and females aged 25–34 years. The proportion of suicides that are work-related is unclear. One Australian study found that 17% of suicides in Victoria from 2000–2007 were work-related. Applying this estimate to deaths across Australia, approximately 3,800 suicides over the decade to 2011 may be work-related.

Adults spend about a third of their waking hours at work. The workplace provides a unique opportunity to provide key health information and intervention. Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) sees the workplace as playing a vital role in the creation of a suicide safe community.

The World Health Organization suggests worker suicide is a result of a complex interaction between individual vulnerabilities and work-related environmental factors that trigger stress reactions and contribute to poor mental well-being. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, including managing psychosocial stressors.

Suicide Prevention Australia believes urgent action is required to address a range of systemic issues including managing unemployment, workers compensation and coronial processes. In addition, we call on organizations of all sizes to implement workplace policies and programs that promote a mentally healthy workforce and prevent suicide behaviors.

Understanding of the cost of workplace stress is continuously building and includes productivity losses because of “presenteeism” (the act of coming to work despite sickness, physical or mental) and absenteeism as well as workers’ compensation claims. No detailed and independent costing exists on the cost of suicide and suicidal behavior to the Australian economy.

A plausible estimate was calculated to be $17.5 billion per year, including productivity costs. Death claims paid out by Group Life Insurers in Superannuation for suicide exceeds $100 million per year. Monetary value aside, suicide cuts lives short and leaves scars.

Suicide is mostly preventable, yet significant gaps exist in our understanding of the relationship between work and suicide, limiting prevention efforts. SPA has reviewed the existing evidence, and we believe urgent action is required to address a range of systemic issues including managing unemployment, workers’ compensation and coronial processes. In addition, we call on organizations of all sizes to implement workplace policies and programs that promote a mentally healthy workforce and prevent suicide behaviors.

We ask employers to draw on the information provided in this document and call on them to:

  • Promote a workplace culture that is inclusive, de-stigmatizes mental health problems and encourages help-seeking. Sharing stories about personal experiences with suicide and mental health problems can be a powerful way to address stigma. In appropriate settings and with support and informed consent of all parties involved, leaders are encouraged to share their own stories, highlighting positive coping strategies and sources of help.
  • Prioritize psychosocial workplace safety. This includes identifying ways to reduce work-related stressors.
  • Understand and value the person as a human being rather than a resource. This includes understanding the interactions between what happens within the workplace and other aspects of life including family, relationships, cultural background, health, etc. This will help facilitate an understanding of the meaning of work for people and the impact of stress, loss or failure of work on their lives.
  • Promote mental health and suicide awareness within the workplace, paired with clear and communicated pathways to support for those in need.
  • Establish mechanisms for the recognition and early detection of mental health and emotional difficulties in the workplace.
  • Provide employees with access to appropriate self-help or professional interventions and treatment, for example via employee assistance programs linked to external community health resources. Pathways to care should be well promoted within the workplace, making sure employees feel encouraged to draw on these supports and understand the confidential nature of services. This will help overcome potential fear of breach of privacy.
  • Frame suicide prevention programs in a manner that respects the cultural backgrounds and needs of the target audience, taking into account factors such as cultural and linguistic diversity, indigenous status and diverse sexualities and genders.
  • Be prepared for suicide to touch the lives of your employees and to respond appropriately. Lived experience of suicide can include having thoughts about taking one’s own life, making a suicide attempt, caring for someone who is suicidal, being bereaved by suicide, witnessing a suicide or being exposed to suicide in some other way. These experiences will take on different meaning and importance for every person and can have lasting impacts.

To assist individual employers to achieve this, we ask that industry and employer groups:

  • Establish relationships with key suicide prevention and mental health organizations.
  • Develop industrywide guidelines for suicide prevention.
  • Invest in the development of multifaceted suicide prevention programs tailored for the industry. This is especially urgent for industries characterized by relatively ready access to suicide means, elevated risk of suicide or a high proportion of male workers.

Government plays a vital role in suicide prevention. Action
is required by government to address systemic issues that contribute to work-related suicide. We call on government to:

  • Promote policies and practices that encourage employment, as this will give more people protection against one of the more significant risk factors for suicide.
  • Invest in both labor market programs and suicide prevention programs (including mental health promotion) during times of economic downturn.
  • Provide access to counselling services (via employment pathway services) for individuals unemployed for more than four weeks.
  • Provide suicide intervention skills training for front-line staff working with the long- term unemployed.
  • Fund research into the relationship between work and suicide to inform suicide prevention activities.
  • Review the role of the workers’ compensation system in suicide prevention, minimizing harm and maximizing opportunities for intervention with those vulnerable to suicide. To achieve this, workers’ compensation claims databases require improvement, and research is required to better understand the relationship between workers’ compensation and suicide.
  • Give coroners adequate resources to ensure that coronial investigations include the role of work in suicide deaths.
  • Develop guidelines for suicide prevention in line with the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022.
  • The proposed harmonized workplace health and safety regime increases focus on duty of care including mental health. We call on state and territory governments to implement recommendations under the proposed regime.
  • Invest in mental health and suicide prevention in the workplace.