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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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?