Mental health problems including anxiety, depression and stress are on the rise not only in the US but worldwide. These conditions require an intense amount of effort and time to help and manage patients.
Unfortunately, not only adults are affected by mental health problems. Children, especially teens, suffer from mental disorders, which increase at an alarming rate among the young population. It is estimated that there has been a thirty-five-fold increase between 1987 and 2007. Recent years also show steady rise of mental disorders among adults and teens.
While occasional anxiety is normal, for example if you feel anxious before making an important decision, or when faced with a problem at work or in school, the true problem is if the anxiety does not go away and get worse over time.
The anxiety feelings can interfere with daily activities such as school or job performance, or relationships. The people with anxiety usually cannot stop worrying about things, or imagining the worst case scenarios, they have trouble sleeping and concentrating, and feel uncomfortable when being surrounded by many people, which all could negatively affect their daily life.
The first course of action would be recommending people with anxiety to see a psychologist or registered counselor, especially if they have moderate to severe anxiety. Unfortunately, many people are not able to afford this or are just plain embarrassed to seek help.
Sometimes, other methods such as self-help resources could be useful depending on the patient's condition, i.e. anxiety severity. A lot of these resources are available as mobile phone apps that help people better cope with their anxiety.
MindShift app, developed by the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, is one of those resources targeted at teens and young adults, helping them learn and practice anxiety coping skills by using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) based guidance and evaluation.
The MindShift app provides a variety of methods for adolescents to respond to anxiety, for example, learning more about the anxiety and symptoms, evaluating their level of anxiety in particular situations, engaging in relaxation tasks, developing realistic thinking patterns and changing behavior, and so on.
These methods are organized in several categories on the home screen, including Anxiety 101, My Situations, Check Yourself, Thinking Right, Chill Out Tools, Active Steps and Inspiration.
Anxiety 101, as its name suggests, explains anxiety basics, i.e. what anxiety is, the Anxiety Triangle, when does anxiety become a problem, how to overcome fear, etc. All information in this section (and the rest of the app as well) is written in concise and easy-to-comprehend manner, suitable to adolescents who are supposed to be app's main audience.
My Situations category allows users to review all pre-selected situations and circumstances that may be anxiety inducing, such as managing worry, coping with test anxiety, dealing with conflict, tackling social fears, and so on. Upon choosing the particular situation, users are taken through the set of open-ended questions to help them identify what may trigger their anxiety, and to identify replacement thoughts and skills that they can use to cope with anxiety in that particular situation.
Another useful feature is Check Yourself, which is basically a self-assessment tool that allows users to rate their anxiety level on a scale out of 10, and to choose anxiety symptoms they may be experiencing from the list.
Thinking Right category provides different strategies for reframing thoughts, i.e. using realistic thinking when coping with anxiety situations.
Chill Out Tools is set of audio relaxation exercises and mindfulness strategies, narrated by male and female voice, which are also included as a cope mechanism in My Situations category.
Active Steps category provides users with several step-by-step action plans for dealing with specific anxiety-inducing situations, as well as general coping strategies. Finally, Inspiration category provides a list of over 30 inspiring quotes that would keep uses going.
The app also includes emergency helplines for adolescents in Canada struggling with thoughts about suicide and self-harm.
The MindShift app is visually appealing and simply designed with pleasant color palette. However, except for some interactivity limited to questionnaires in My Situations category, the app is heavy on text, so users with anxiety, especially those having difficulty sustain attention, may find it hard to engage with the app that doesn't offer much interactivity.
Another problem is the lack of notifications or reminders that app should send to users reminding them about the goals they've set, daily actions, inspirational quotes, etc. Otherwise, the app won't be something that they would remember to use when needed.
Mindshift app is likely to increase awareness and knowledge on anxiety, its causes, and coping relaxation techniques for anxiety. Teens and young adults experiencing mild to moderate anxiety symptoms (general stress, exam or performance anxiety) may find it useful, but only if recommended by healthcare professional.
Adolescents with more severe anxiety symptoms should resort to traditional treatment and seek help from a mental health professional.
Benefit: Teens and young adults experiencing mild to moderate anxiety symptoms