Young adults are dealing with more mental health struggles than ever before. 9.7% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression and 60% of youth with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment in 2017-2018. With technology at our fingertips, there are many beneficial ways in which we can use the tools it offers. Mental health apps are increasing accessibility via smartphones. There is still a stigma around talking about mental health struggles. And because of that stigma, it may be challenging to reach out for help. This is where mental health apps can be beneficial. For many young adults, texting or communicating through social media feels much more comfortable than talking to someone directly. Mental health apps allow people to gain access to help in a way that feels less daunting than having to set up a meeting with a therapist in the real world. 

Technology can certainly be deemed as a place where people spend too much time and fall into the pit of comparison. However, if used correctly, our phones can give us portable access to tools that can help us improve our mental health. A mental health app may connect you to a professional who can answer your questions and concerns, or it could provide you with stress management or grounding practices. Some popular mental health apps include:

  • Breathe2Relax: A simple, intuitive, and attractive mobile app designed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology to teach breathing techniques to manage stress. The skills taught may be applied to those with anxiety disorders, stress, and PTSD. This app can be personalized to a pace that the user finds relaxing; includes a video demo, reading materials, and charts to map personal progress. Helpful for self-starters or those working with a therapist to include breathing techniques in their overall treatment.
  • Catch It: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, based app aimed to help users deal with feelings of anxiety, depression, anger and confusion. The app has three sections, Catch It, Check It, Change It, designed to record moods, reframe the situation in a different way by taking a moment to reflect on their mood entry and then describe what a more thoughtful or helpful way to approach the situation would be.
  • Day To Day: A time management app designed to combine Google Calendar and Google Tasks in one package for Android phones and tablets. Day by Day allows you to create the events with fixed start/end time, as well as the events due to a certain time with the ability to postpone it. When creating an event, you are prompted to set a reminder which won’t let you forget about your plans.
  • Calm: An app that focuses on sleep, meditation, and relaxation. Providing guided meditations that are good for complete novices and seasoned practitioners, and you have your pick when it comes to how long you can dedicate to the app each day. Calm also offers: a mood check in, sleep stories, and nature sounds. 
  • Colorfy: Adult coloring has increased in popularity over the past few years, and Colorfy allows you to use coloring to calm and focus yourself anywhere. With a selection of images and mandalas to choose from, or the option to upload your own sketches to color, you can spend hours in a flow state or focused meditation through this app.

Some examples of how these apps can help with certain mental health diagnosis are listed below.

  • Depression: Mobile apps are able to use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness training, mood monitoring, and cognitive skills training to treat depressive symptoms.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety-focused mobile apps delivered the greatest reductions in anxiety symptoms when paired with face-to-face or internet-based therapies. Studies revealed that replacing outpatient patient-therapist sessions with a mobile app resulted in no significant loss of treatment efficacy.

Evaluating the Benefits of Mental Health Apps

In order to reap the full benefits of mental health apps, the apps must be evidence-based and carefully designed. The four components that should be present in the development of these apps include high patient engagement, Simple user interface and experience, Transdiagnostic capabilities, and Self-monitoring features. With the inclusion of these four things, mental health apps have the potential to offer high-efficacy mental health interventions that can be accessed at any place at any time. In order to be fully effective, the apps must include a motivating factor that keeps individuals engaged and committed to improving themselves via the treatment through the app.

The downside is that many of the claims by mental health apps have never actually been studied or evaluated in feasibility or clinical trials. This can leave the user to distinguish a useful, safe, and effective app from an unhelpful, dangerous, and ineffective one. There are some ways an app can actually be dangerous or cause harm. A few examples include: offering incorrect or misleading information to patients, claiming to offer therapeutic interventions or services but actually be ineffective, by not being secure, or improperly disclosing or allowing access to personal health data.

These mental health apps have the potential to be beneficial if we think of them as a tool rather than a sole form of treatment. When used in tandem with a clinician or other therapeutic treatment plans these apps can help extend and boost the impact of treatment. The best apps are practical and easy to use because the more user friendly it is, the more likely we are to use it. Mental health apps can help people learn new skills and share their experiences with others. The goal is not to have apps replace therapeutic care, but rather to help users gain comfort and confidence in talking about and dealing with their mental health struggles. 

Seeking Help Beyond Apps

Mental health apps can be a helpful gateway to receiving help for mental health struggles. But some issues require more attention than an app can give. In these cases, a wilderness therapy program for young adults may be the answer. These programs provide structure and a therapeutic environment in a wilderness setting that is designed specifically with young adults in mind. Young adults require a much different program than children or teens. A wilderness therapy program can not only give them adventure therapy experience but also teach them important life skills to utilize when they return home. 

Throughout their time in nature, young adults have the chance to build important life skills and work towards achieving goals they’d never imagined they could accomplish. Away from the temptations of technology and negative influences back home, clients have the opportunity to look inwards and focus on building the skills that will lead to success back home.

Adventure therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic approach that utilizes the powerful healing properties of the outdoors to promote change and growth within individuals. Young adults can especially benefit from this programming because it completely removes them from the distractions and of their life at home and allows them to focus on their own personal growth and healing. Adventure therapy programming may include:

  • Rock climbing: where students will learn about problem solving and being resilient. 
  • Backpacking: where they will build self confidence as they learn to put up their campsite and cook their own meals. 
  • Canoeing: where students learn to effectively communicate and work as a team with their peers
  • Hiking: where students will learn to set and achieve their goals

By removing young adults from the distractions found in everyday life, adventure therapy allows clients to focus on improving their behavior and overall mental health. Gone are the negative influences that may be affecting behaviors. In nature, young adults have the time to mull over past actions and make goals for a successful future.

BlueFire PulsaR can help

BlueFire PulsaR is a coeducational wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-28. This program addresses emotional, social, and behavioral problems in struggling young adults. Adventure therapy, wilderness ventures, equine therapy, academic opportunities and “family spark” are used to help students open up and look at their life. From there they are able to experience growth and adopt healthy self-management skills. This program is dedicated to helping students regain a better sense of the world around them while addressing their emotions and needs head on. 

At blueFire PulsaR, clients have the chance to gain a better sense of themselves as individuals and begin forming goals with the guidance of therapeutic professionals. Through exciting adventure-based activities like mountaineering, bouldering, and canoeing, clients step outside of their comfort zone and build translatable skills such as leadership, teamwork, and accountability. As clients take part in wilderness programming, we are able to assess their needs and begin to form a plan for transitioning away from past negative behaviors. Our transition planning helps identify key points as your child heads home and uses the wilderness to gain the confidence needed to no longer make the same mistakes. We can help your family today.

Contact us at 1 (844) 413-1999.

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