Help At Your Fingertips

Asking for help is never easy. It’s especially difficult when you suffer from a mental illness because of the stigma that is attached to it. There are a number of factors that deter people from reaching out for help, that can include anything from shame, to fear of being institutionalized or hospitalized against their wishes, to being judged or unsupported by those around them, to simply not wanting to say what they’re going through because it makes their struggles that much more real. Mental illness, and especially depression or suicidality, come with the incredible burden of unnerving isolation. The loneliness in our minds, existing because of a great wall built by our depression, makes us retreat further into our minds, much like a hermit crab does when they fear for their safety. The next question posed is, how do we help people who cannot come and ask for help, or make it known that they need help? There is a great deal of work that needs to be done in this area, but I must say that the emergence of not only websites or virtual resources, but smartphone apps especially, have made it much easier for those who need help to seek it out.

There are hundreds of free mental health apps for smartphones, and even more for iPhones. These apps can do anything from depression screening tests, to teaching anti-anxiety tests, to providing a social media type platform for people to not feel so alone as they suffer. Popular apps such as Six Billion Secrets and Whisper have also become an outlet for people to express their secret struggles with anything, including mental illness, and provide resources to people who may be in danger. Relaxation excercises, happiness apps, and depression coping skills are all among the features of many of these apps. The Trevor Project, an initiative geared towards helping LGBT youth handle the struggles of coming out or being in the closet, has an app consisting of videos of celebrities and other people discussing how “It gets better”.Some apps are specific to certain regions of the world, providing access to crisis centres and help lines, while others provide free virtual self help coaching. Similar to how calorie tracker apps work, there are apps to monitor your mood, which then analyze the times of day that a person experiences their lowest mood.

My personal favourite, is an app called My3. My3 is an app for people who have suicidal or depressive tendencies, and helps them access help instantly. When initially downloading the app, the person makes a safety plan, where they list steps they will take if they begin to feel suicidal or like they may be a danger too themselves. Next, the person makes a list of calming activities they enjoy, anything from listening to certain songs or completing some sort of physical activity. The app breaks it down into simple steps that the app user just has to fill in. The best part of this app though, is that anytime the user opens the app, 5 bubbles pop up. Three of the bubbles are for people the app user feels can be a huge support (a friend, family member, counsellor, etc) and the app is programmed with their numbers so that the app user simply has to touch the button and it will call them or send them a message. The other two buttons are for 911 or for a suicide hotline, respectively. This makes sure that every resource the app user could possibly need are easy access, and quite literally, help is at their fingertips.

The internet has lots of great websites with resources, but it can be time consuming to find all the right information, and sometimes internet is difficult to access, especially if you don’t have a computer handy when you need it. When a person feels suicidal, they aren’t exactly thinking straight, so something simple like looking up a phone number can prove to be rather difficult, whereas the app makes it effortless to access help.

The apps that I’ve mentioned or linked to, aside from a select few, are not just for people who have a mental illness, but can be quite helpful for anyone to maintain good mental health. They help people become more in tune with their emotions, and can enable them to understand how they feel using analysis, or can provide skills and tools to help them cope with stress, anxiety or negative emotions.

Keep Surviving By Living.

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