Teens in the digital age are accustomed to using social media, Internet, and mobile phone apps to access the information they need. They use digital devices to talk to their friends, watch movies, and complete their homework. Teens no longer reach for books or head to the library for information; instead they reach for something closer – their phone.
And this is true when teens need psychological help. When teens need support for feeling depressed, anxious, or simply confused, they’re going online. They are spending time finding the information they need through digital sources, which is why plenty of planning, time, and money went into creating a new mental health app for teens.
The app is called BoosterBuddy and provides teens with a list of coping mechanisms, tips for controlled breathing exercises, types of mental health concerns, and ways to manage symptoms. BoosterBuddy was created by Calgary-based developers Robots & Pencils, Island Health, Victoria Hospitals Foundation and a $150,000 donation from Coast Capital Savings. The app helps teens do the following:
- Check-in with how you are feeling each day
- Use coping skills
- Keep track of appointments and medications
- Get started on tasks
- Follow self-care routines
- Increase real-life socialization
In Canada, where the app was developed, there are approximately 1.2 million youth who live with mental illness, but only 20 per cent will get the help they need. Furthermore, Dr. Abraham Rudnick, medical director with Island Health’s mental health and substance use services, said mental health disorders have become the second highest reason for youth admission at Canadian hospitals.
And the same is true for American teens. Sadly, less than half of adolescents with psychiatric disorders received any kind of treatment in the past year. It’s clear that there remains a social stigma regarding psychological disorders and teen mental illness. The stigma and shame associated with “having something wrong with you” has become one of the largest barriers for teens in accessing the treatment they need. In fact, frequently adolescents are not aware that they even need treatment and believe that feeling sad or anxious is part of everyday life. It’s common that only when symptoms become debilitating, that’s when a teen seek for help. But even in those cases, adolescents might talk to parents or friends versus a mental health professional who might be able to provide help.
Another barrier to treatment is health insurance in the United States. In 2012, for instance, almost 9 percent of adolescents lacked insurance. Yet, even when they are covered, the amount of mental health services they can receive is often limited. Furthermore, if teens do not recognize that they might have an illness that needs treating, at times school professionals might notice symptoms, especially if they get in the way of school performance. However, even then, teachers much communicate those symptoms to parents who then must be willing to follow up with having their child assessed for a psychological disorder. On the whole, however, research indicates that teens who tend to need mental health services and don’t get the treatment they need.
This app is meant to make it easier for adolescents to navigate their inner experience. It’s a free app that facilitates teens feeling better by assisting them in managing their feelings, thoughts, and actions. Furthermore, the company responsible for the app donates seven per cent of its pre-tax profits back into the community, which will equal $5.7 million in 2014 alone.
Having a tool teens can pull out of their pocket that gives them hope and encourages their happiness holds potential for better mental health statistics in the future. The app also mirrors the character of this generation to rely upon technology to meet their needs. As this app continues to be shared, it can help improve the lives of many teens and young adults throughout Canada and the United States.