I’ve written a couple of times in the last year about the rise of computer assisted therapy. Mental health chatbots using artificial intelligence are well-regarded by their users and there is a growing evidence base to support online desistance and substance misuse programmes.
Today’s post features two apps developed by Nihara Krause of Stem4 aimed at helping young people cope with anxiety disorders. It relies, in great part, on a recent article by Ms Krause herself in the Guardian.
Anxiety, one of the most common mental health problems, is a many-headed monster. Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation-anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Recent figures from NHS Digital confirmed that emotional disorders, which include depression and anxiety, are the most prevalent conditions in children and young people, affecting 8.1% of five-to-19-year-olds. Anxiety disorders reach a peak in girls between the ages of 17 and 19, affecting 20.9% of this age group.
As most readers will know, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have been under increasing pressure for many years and only have capacity to treat young people with complex needs. Of course, leaving young people with untreated anxiety for a prolonged period of time will often lead to them developing complex needs.
To help these very many young people cope managed their anxiety, Stem4 has developed two apps.
The Calm Harm app provides tasks to help users resist or manage the urge to self-harm. The app can be personalised by choosing the background colour theme and deciding on whether to include some company using a variety of friendly characters. The app then provides people with four categories of tasks to help them surf the urge to self-harm. ‘Distract’ helps in learning self-control; ‘Comfort’ helps people care rather than harm; ‘Express yourself’ gets those feelings out in a different way and ‘Release’ provides safe alternatives to self-injury. There is also a ‘Breathe’ category to help calm and get back in control. You can find out more from the video below.
The Clear Fear app helps young people cope with anxiety. Here’s its introduction for potential users:
The fear of threat, or anxiety, is like a strong gust of wind. It drags you in and makes you want to fight it or run away.
Instead, face your fear with the free Clear Fear app and learn to reduce the physical responses to threat as well as changing thoughts and behaviours and releasing emotions.
You can see screenshots of the app below.
A few years ago, these apps might have been considered gimmicky. Now they have become a mainstream response to an incredibly common problem. The Calm Harm app has been downloaded 900,000 times since its launch.