Mindfulness & Mental Health Apps for Youth
Cell phones may not be the first tool to think of when trying to disconnect and destress, but mobile apps can provide helpful mindfulness strategies and services.
Many apps help provide kids and teenagers with meditations based on their mood, manage mental health struggles, and even connect users with tools and specialists as someone to talk to and help support them.
Depression is the leading cause of illness and disability in teenagers, and studies show that half of those who develop mental disorders start showing symptoms by the age of 14, according to the World Health Organization.
One of top meditation apps, Headspace conducts mindfulness studies with national institutions to advance the field of mindfulness meditation. With 16 published studies, the app has proved to help with stress, focus and compassion. Only 10 days of Headspace reduced stress by 14%, improved self-compassion, and increased positivity and well-being.
Headspace has a subscription designed for children with five themes: calm, focus, kindness, sleep and wake up. The meditation exercises are designed for kids and parents to join, and the sessions can change based on age.
“It’s almost as though meditation was designed for kids,” said Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace. “They just ‘get it’ – there is this elasticity and freedom in their minds which allows them to be present in the moment and free from any external thoughts or pressures.”
Insight Timer offers more than 13,000 free guided meditations, and a collection specifically for kids and teens to help build confidence, overcome restlessness and develop regular sleep patterns.
With a wide variety of meditations, kids and teens can find a meditation for different moods and times of the day, like “Sweet Dreams Meditation for Children,” “For Students: Dealing with Exam Stress,” or “Coming Home to The Breath.”
Stop, Breathe & Think seeks the benefit of daily meditations through mood-specific suggestions. The creators of the free app say finding a few minutes to feel calm is as important as regular exercise.
The app guides you through a few simple questions to find out how you’re feeling physically and mentally, then asks you to add emotions, both positive and negative, using emojis. Taking all those factors into account, the app then recommends meditations with information on what the meditation is and what feelings it helps with. The simple process to recommended meditations makes it easy for anyone to find the right daily meditation.
BoosterBuddy focuses on improving young people’s mental health through “gamification,” making daily activities seem like part of a game to connect fun and motivation.
Occupational therapist Lauren Fox worked with the design team for the app. The app’s fun and easy approach to daily activities makes the daily mental health tool an engaging, positive experience. She explained how the app works in a blog post on Kelty Mental Health Resource Center’s website:
“BoosterBuddy provides a choice of three companion characters, or buddies. The buddy falls asleep every day and the user has to interact with the app to wake up their buddy. When they do this they are also taking steps to manage their own wellness.
“Waking up their buddy includes checking-in with how they are feeling that day and completing three “quests”, or real-life activities, in order to wake up their buddy. Quests are tailored to match how the user it feeling. If they are struggling, the quest will be a coping skill aimed at what is bothering them the most: anxiety, depression, psychosis, drug or alcohol misuse or other problems. If they are feeling better, the quest will be a more challenging task: taking a walk, phoning a friend, eating something healthy or many others. All the quests aim to give users a boost to get started on healthy activities.”
16-year-old Amanda Southworth created AnxietyHelper as a resource to help manage panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. Southworth told Healthline that she had trouble with her own mental health in middle school, and she wanted to create an accessible resource for anyone to find “what they’re up against, how to fight it, and what they need to do next.”
The app features interactive tools for users to cope with mental illness each day and provides information about depression, anxiety, and panic attacks and mental health resources.
Mindfulness apps are not meant to act as a treatment for mental health issues, but they can provide great tools for users manage their daily feelings and provide resources. Having many options of mental health and mindfulness apps allows users to find those that work best for them.