Students test mental health-focused apps

On Friday, Nov. 18 a “mental health app testing event” was held in the solarium of the Pond. The event was organized by Anne Comfort, director of the Meighen Centre, Melissa Baxter, Mount Allison’s newly hired mental health educator, and members of the MASU.

According to Comfort, over 70 students attended the event over the course of two hours. iPads were set up with six different mental health-focused apps for students to try. Participating students were then asked to fill out a survey. The data from the survey has not yet been analyzed, but Comfort, as well as Sara Camus and Anthony Maddalena of the MASU, all said they have received positive feedback from many of the students who were present.

Comfort and Baxter selected six apps from a longer list of free apps already recommended to students by staff and counsellors at Mt. A. They hope to provide students with an analysis of which apps might be most well received by the student body.

“We’re looking to add to a student’s toolbox of things that they can use [to promote] positive mental health,” Comfort said. “There are students for whom coming to a self-help group or reaching out to counsellor or talking to a friend might not be where their comfort level is at, but they might really benefit from being able to do a meditation exercise on their phone, in their own space and on their own time.”

Comfort said many universities are moving toward these options as forms of self-care. “[These apps] aren’t going to cure a mental disorder, but they can certainly help to increase your positive mental health,” she said.

The apps are all free, which Comfort said is important given the lack of funding for mental health resources on campus. “We didn’t want the finances to be a barrier,” she said.

Camus and Maddalena said having Comfort and Baxter as resources to research the most effective and accurate options was important.

Camus, vice-president communications for the MASU, said that at the recently held New Brunswick Students’ Association’s Advocacy Week, students’ unions advocated for an increase in the mental health budget for resources on campus.

Camus said that awareness on campus is now there, exemplified in groups such as jack.org and Change Your Mind. “What we really need now are resources,” she said. “We have all these students who want access to services and not enough funding to provide it.”

Camus said that some of the apps provide not only mental health awareness, but techniques like mindful breathing, which could act as a stepping stone for students.

Maddalena, VP student life of the MASU, said that the students’ union hopes to find out what students are looking for in terms of resources. “It’s all about finding exactly what fits the problem,” said Maddalena. “That’s where student consultation will be important.”

A similiar setup of iPads will be available for students to try during Mental Health Day on Oct. 24 at the “Stress Free Zone” in Tweedie Hall.

Catherine Turnbull
Now in her fourth year of an honours degree in philosophy, Catherine still subsists on a continuous cycle of good coffee and cheap wine. If she’s not in the office inserting Oxford commas wherever she can, she might be climbing a mountain or procrasti-baking.