Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are on the rise amongst teenagers, and finding ways to help young people to overcome the challenges that those conditions raise and improve their emotional well-being is an ongoing concern amongst clinicians and parents alike. While there is no real substitute for professional counseling or therapy for mental health issues, more clinicians are starting to recommend mobile apps as a tool to aid in treating their patients. These mental health apps are very helpful for teens suffering from mental health problems since young adults use technology frequently to communicate with each other and are therefore very familiar with using mobile devices for all kinds of purposes.
Mobile apps designed to promote good mental health are helpful in engaging those who are either unable or unwilling to go to therapy on a one to one basis. They’re also useful for providing additional support between counseling sessions. Of course, it goes without saying that mental health apps work best if they’re used together with in-person therapy and possibly medication.
How Many Teens Suffer From Mental Health Problems?
Around a fifth of teenagers in the USA have a mental health problem which is so severe that it has an impact on their daily life. Many more struggle with some form of mental health disorder which may be less serious but no less difficult to live with. Severe emotional disorders have such a high prevalence among U.S. teens that there are more sufferers than the numbers of young people with diabetes or asthma – two conditions which have received considerably more public attention.
Of those mental health problems, anxiety disorders like a social phobia and panic disorders are most commonly seen with around 30% of teenagers with a diagnosed mental health condition having a disorder of this type. ADHD and ADD are the second most common mental health problems followed by mood disorders like major depression. Around 40% of young people who have been diagnosed with one mental health disorder will also meet the criteria for a second disorder during their lifetime according to experts.
While more research will need to be carried out to find out more about the various risk factors associated with the development of mental health problems during the teenage years and to find out whether those disorders will progress into the sufferer’s adult life, the fact remains that finding effective ways to help young people who are struggling in this respect is essential.
The Rise Of The Mental Health App
Over the last few years, there has been a raft of mental health apps being released on both Android and Apple platforms and made available to young smartphone users who are looking for ways to support their well-being. Often, these apps are completely free to use, although some charge a reasonable fee, and they offer a host of valuable resources to bring therapeutic techniques within easy reach of those who could most benefit. Even better, since these apps can be accessed from mobile devices, they are portable and can be available at a moment’s notice to support struggling teens no matter where they are.
Since only a tiny percentage of teens with mental health conditions actively seek out professional support, apps have a key role to play. They can reach those who would never otherwise have been able to get the help they need. Whether those young people lack the financial resources to get help, are unwilling to admit their problem to their loved ones or are unable to leave the house because of physical or mental health problems, these apps can supply a valuable source of support that can help young people to overcome the many challenges that poor mental health can pose.
A further benefit provided by these apps is that they are confidential and private. Teens who are too ashamed to talk about their mental health problems with their families or friends are supplied with a safe place to get the help they need.
The apps are designed to support teens with many different mental health conditions, incorporating clinical techniques like ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). They can address issues as diverse as eating disorders and depression to OCD and anxiety. Although many of these apps are new to the market, clinicians are hopeful about their ability to provide an innovative solution that will help young people to manage their mental health conditions themselves.
Are Mental Health Mobile Apps Superceding Therapy?
Some professionals working in the mental health sector are worried that mental health mobile apps are taking over from expert therapy or counseling and believe that they shouldn’t be used on their own without the guidance of a counselor or therapist.
Experts are saying that, while apps are highly beneficial when used in conjunction with therapy sessions, they shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for traditional forms of treatment. An app is unable to provide the same level of insight that a real-life counselor can provide and the personal touch is lacking. Psychologists believe that empathetic connections between patients and counselors are essential to facilitate recovery.
Nevertheless, for young people who are unwilling or unable to get professional help or access traditional therapies, downloading and using a mental health app is better than struggling without any form of support at all.
Here, we take a look at five of the best apps that promote good mental health in teenagers and young people.
1. Calm Harm – Manages Self Harm
The Calm Harm – Manages Self Harm app is free of charge and offers teenagers many different ways to overcome their impulses to harm themselves. There are both 5-minute and 15-minute activities as well as a timer that helps users to find healthier ways of handling their emotions and impulses.
This app lists websites, resources and country-specific telephone hotlines which teens are able to access to get more social and mental health support relating to self-harm, depression and family issues. It suggests a range of ideas which can help teenagers to distract themselves, express their emotions, calm themselves down and release their anger so that they don’t hurt themselves. Not only are the activities pro-self and pro-social, but the app has also been designed to be extremely user-friendly and visually appealing to young users making it one of the best choices out there for teen users.
Available on: Android and Apple
2. The Trill Project
This app was designed by a group of teenager girls who were keen to create an online community which was supportive and positive. Based around social networking, this app allows users to join a moderated community anonymously to discuss the issues they’re struggling with including LGBTQ concerns, addiction, and anxiety. The anonymous nature of the forum means that teenagers can open up about their problems with a greater sense of freedom, and since the groups and posts are fully moderated, all users can remain safe. In-built links also offer help for any user who is in crisis or who are having suicidal thoughts.
Perfect for older teens, this app is the ultimate antidote to the critical nature of other social networking apps. By allowing sufferers to bond with each other and offer each other support, this app is a valuable support tool to accompany traditional therapies.
Available on: Apple
3. Mental Health Awareness For Mind, Mood, And Wellbeing
This app may not have the catchiest name, but it has been well designed, offering support for both teenagers and adults who are experiencing mental health problems. The app incorporates a number of courses about various topics of mental health awareness including bullying, depression, anger management, anxiety, and suicide awareness. The courses are self-paced and can be completed in a single session.
This unique resource offers solid information about both serious and common mental health problems, although it’s important to be aware that it’s only intended to offer advice and not direct therapy or support. Teenagers can progress through the various modules, learning about the behaviors linked with each issue and strategies to deal with them.
Available on: Apple (UK)
4. Stop, Breathe And Think
This app has been designed to be suitable for both younger and older teens, helping young people to build up their confidence and emotional strength through mindfulness and meditation so they can handle the many problems and challenges that life throws at us. This app takes a unique approach which enables users to identify their emotions before being presented with guided, short meditations, acupressure and yoga videos to address those feelings.
This app has a teen-specific setting which addresses many issues encountered in school, offering real solutions to address those common problems. Users who have downloaded and regularly utilized this app have found that their anxiety has been reduced by around half and their stress is better managed. They can even achieve a better quality of sleep thanks to the breathing activities, meditations, and soundscapes which have been designed to promote peaceful rest.
With meditations for beginners as well as experienced meditators, there are over 40 free activities to choose from as well as more than 100 paid activities. The topics cover a range of themes including:
- Morning meditations
- Stress-busting meditations
- Breathing mindfully
- Taming anxiety
- Improved sleep
- Cultivation of kindness
- Strengthening of focus
- Depression management
- Commuting to school
- Mindfulness for college students
- Meditations for tweens and teens
The Sanvello (formerly Pacifica) app has been designed to have a zen-inducing layout that promotes mental well-being from the get-go. It allows users to record their thoughts and feelings on a daily basis so that they can better identify their triggering behaviors and events. Not only is this app a useful journal, but it also coaches users in relaxation techniques and suggestions real solutions to help them work through the challenges that they face.
The tools offered by this app are based on proven techniques that have been shown to be beneficial in addressing depression, anxiety, and stress. All of the tools have been designed by psychologists and incorporate meditation, relaxation, mindfulness, mood and health tracking and CBT. The purpose of the Pacifica app is to break the negative cycle of thoughts which result in the emotions and physical feelings that cause anxiety and stress. Users progress at their own pace through the tools offered by this user-friendly app and develop ways to change their thought patterns for better mental well-being. Some of the tools offered by this app include:
- Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation audio tools to promote muscle relaxation and deep breathing to combat anxiety and stress.
- Guided self-help activities, audio lessons, and paths to help users deal with depression, anxiety, and stress through mindfulness and CBT.
- Mood trackers to rate feelings and moods through the day and to add notes about triggers and events so patterns can be observed.
- Analysis tools designed by psychologists to record, journal and analyze thoughts and to learn the ways in which distorted patterns of thinking increase anxiety levels. These tools use CBT techniques which enable users to balance their thoughts and break the cycle of negative thought patterns.
- Goal tracking and daily challenges. This app uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques which allow users to face their anxiety and work towards their long term goals with daily challenges.
- Health trackers with the ability to set health goals each day for habits which improve anxiety levels such as sleep, alcohol, caffeine, and exercise.
- A peer-support community which allows users to share their advice and stories and to gain support from other sufferers.
This app is available to download for free and has a free user option although unlimited use of the tools requires a Full Access subscription.
Mental Health Apps – A Solution For Struggling Teens
All five of these mental health apps offer positive benefits for teenagers and young people who are experiencing difficulties with their mental and emotional well-being. Whether your teen is struggling with anxiety, depression, self-harm, stress or another disorder, one of these apps can offer beneficial advice, support and activities that will help promote positive thinking, relaxation, and mindfulness.
While many of these mental health apps have activities and tools designed by psychologists, it’s important to remember that it will always be best to use these apps alongside traditional counseling or therapy for the best result for your teenager.