As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise across Canada, so, too, has anxiety and stress related to the pandemic.
Kaitlin O’Toole, an occupational therapist from the University of Alberta, says that now more than ever, online tools can be used to build resilience and wellness.
“These apps should not be seen as a way to replace clinician-based mental health interventions, but they can be a great starting point for those who aren’t comfortable seeking in-person support right away,” O’Toole explained.
O’Toole, who co-authored new research out of the U of A, said mobile health apps, such as Mindfulness Coach and LifeArmor, can be particularly helpful for military members and first responders seeking mental health support, as they may not have access to professional mental health services due to deployment, time constraints and social barriers.
O’Toole said the apps give users a sense of what mental health interventions look like and may help reduce the stigma related to mental illness.
“People become more familiar with mental health concepts and interventions,” she explained. “They practise breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and other techniques that can be used in everyday life — during activities like yoga or stretching after exercise.
O’Toole also provided some tips to find reliable mental health apps:
“You are the one who is using the app, so it’s important to pick one that feels comfortable and will be the most useful for your own specific mental health needs,” O’Toole said.
Resilience apps that met the study’s inclusion criteria include AIMS for Anger Management, Breathe2Relax, Concussion Coach, DoD Safe Helpline, HighRes, LifeArmor, Mindfulness Coach, Mood Coach, Moving Forward, PTSD Coach, PTSD Family Coach and Tactical Breather.
“Although these apps are usually geared more toward promoting resilience in military members and first responders, they can absolutely be useful to anyone looking for online mental health strategies,” O’Toole said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) also offer ways of getting help if you or someone you know may be suffering from mental health issues.