3 Apps to Boost Your Mental Health

Article by Candra Garrett
4 minutes 59 seconds read

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I was reminded of an article I read at the start of the year called “Mental Illness in the Web Industry” by Brandon Gregory. In the article, he explores the idea that creatives may be particularly vulnerable to mental illness, while raising the question, “What can industries with high numbers of creative roles do about it?”

I was particularly fond of how he interviewed creatives who struggle with mental illness. Being a creative myself, and having many valued relationships with other creatives in my life, I wondered how we could care for each other and ourselves in light of this struggle. I started to do some research into apps that can boost one’s mental health. I tried out 3 mental apps for 1 week, and here’s how it went.

App 1: Headspace

Headspace is essentially a meditation tool. The orientation was clear and concise; it was clear that the content can clearly adapt to all levels of experience in meditation so no need to feel intimidated if you’re just starting out.

They offer “packs” or “collections” of meditation exercises on a particular topic like acceptance and “minis,” which are short meditation exercises you can do on the spot when needed. They even have exercises just for kids, which are organized by age. Additionally, they offer “animations,” which are short, animated educational videos on particular topics, such as doubt and difficulty and the right attitude.

There is plenty of content to start with, but some deeper content is gated until you subscribe. Unfortunately, this is not the most discreet app. The exercises require that your sound is on, so if you need a mental health boost, you may have to find some privacy elsewhere or pop on some headphones.

App 2: What’s Up?

What’s Up? doesn’t require an account, but you can password-protect the app for privacy. The app provides 4 simple categories of tools:

  1. Help Right Now: Strategies to calm down and get grounded including breathing control, perspective taking, and reading uplifting quotes.
  2. Coping Strategies: A library of techniques to cope with your thoughts and feelings.
  3. Information: Learn more about topics such as depression, anger, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
  4. Personal: Section includes a diary and notes tool, as well as a place to track new positive habits and record negative habits.

Overall, I found this app’s content practical and informative. The layout was simple to use but lacking sophisticated interaction when compared to other apps.

App 3: Moodpath

Moodpath’s main offering is 3 mini check-ins throughout the day with insightful questions regarding your moods and thoughts. After doing these check-ins over 14 days, you will receive a mental health assessment and a doctor’s letter. Additionally, they provide educational material on depression including detection, explanation, and treatment. The app also supplies a way to contact a mental health hotline for immediate help if needed.

This app is highly interactive, reminding you when you need to check in. Even though you don’t get a full assessment before the end of the 14-day period, you can see current comprehensive stats on your check-in answers up to that point. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to change the check-in times, but saw that I could provide a mood report anytime outside of check-ins. The app seems to focus solely on depression, so if you’re looking for a more comprehensive mental health tool, this may not be your app of choice.

Having a psychology background and being a designer, this little exercise got me thinking on how I might design an app for mental health. It’s certainly a challenging design problem. Society has made big leaps in its understanding, awareness and acceptance of a person’s experiencing mental illness—and yet, there are still many questions surrounding the causes and best treatment for so many different types of mental illnesses. Where to begin?

I made a quick plan of action on how I would get started:

  1. Field Research
    1. Talk to people who are desiring to improve mental health and those who have a loved one experiencing mental health issues to learn about their experiences
    2. Have these participants try out a few apps like those above and see what they think
  2. Secondary Research
    1. Gain deeper understanding of how people successfully build new habits
      1. Required reading:
        1. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
        2. Finish by Job Acuff
        3. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
  3. Design
    1. Build a lo-fi prototype
  4. User Testing
    1. Test the prototype with intended audience
  5. More Design Testing & Iterations
  6. Finalize and Launch MDP (Minimum Desirable Product)

In the comments below, tell us about mental health apps you have used and even how you might make an app to help others improve mental health.

Wishing you all good health in body, mind, and spirit.

Additional Resource:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a plethora of resources, including educational tools, events, crisis support, and training at https://nami.org.