3 Apps to Boost Your Mental Health

Article by Candra Garrett
4 minutes 40 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 can 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 ourselves and each other 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 real quick on the spot when you need. They even have exercises just for kids, 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 get started with but some deeper content is gated until you subscribe. Unfortunately, this is not the most discreet app. The exercises require that your sound be 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 you 4 simple categories of tools:

  1. Help Right Now: strategies to calm down and get grounded including breathing control, perspective taking and reading some 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 they will provide you with a mental health assessment and a doctor’s letter. Additionally, they provide educational material on depression including detection, explanation & 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 14 days 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 any time 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 go about designing an app for mental health. It’s certainly a challenging design problem. Society has made big leaps in it’s understanding, awareness and acceptance of person’s experiencing mental illness and yet there are still so 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 persons desiring to improve mental health and those who have a loved one experiencing mental health issues, 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 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)

Tell us about mental health apps you have used and even how you might go about about making an app for improved mental health in the comments below.

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

Additional Resources:

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