10 Free Mental Health Apps

With the power of technology and connection these days we really have the ability to make or break habits in the palm of our hands. Taking responsibility for my social media usage and the kind of content I engage with has been really beneficial in my recovery journey.

Battling mental illness can be nothing short of overwhelming, and the wide variety of resources out there that all claim they can help is hardly any less so. In light of this, I’ve collected this short list of some good FREE apps you can try out.

I would recommend picking a couple at a time to integrate into your daily routine to see how they compliment your current treatment. Give each of them a spin and see how they work for you – Just like recovery, your choice of support is a very personal thing. Nonetheless, I’ve collected brief summaries about some of these top-rated apps to hopefully help break down your search for mobile self-help tools into manageable pieces.

You can also check out Psyber Guide who have reviews of a few key criteria for many mental health apps on the market.


**Please note: None of these mental health applications are a substitute for treatment or medical intervention. Treatment is the best way to overcome clinical mental illness and combinations of medication and therapy have been shown to be especially helpful.  However, these self-help programs may provide some assistance on your path to recovery.


Staying on Track 

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1. Medisafe Medication Tracker & Pill Reminder 

Platforms: IOS & Android

 

Features:

  • Customizable alerts to remind you to take your pills
  • Refil reminders
  • Integrated with Apple’s Health App – Keeps track of your measurements and syncs them to HealthKit app: blood glucose, blood pressure, weight, pulse, temperature and in the US, medications from health records where available.
  • Notification sharing makes it useful for caregivers managing multiple family members e.g. each with their own profile.

Drawbacks:

  • Requires only manual entry of data – no syncing with other help apps.
  • Patient education material might not always be relevant.
  • People reported some incidences of faulty alerts with previous updates, resulting in duplicated dose reminders and patient confusion.

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2. Recovery Record

Platforms: IOS, Android & Web

 

Features:

  • Recovery from an eating disorder is overwhelming and exhausting to say the least. Recovery Record takes away some of the stress by helping you organize your meal plans and logs, track your progress, and provide you with coping skills and a supportive community.
  • Connect with your treatment team. You can work with your doctor, dietician or psychologist to share your data and keep track of your progress.
  • Gentle reminders alert you to check in and log your meals, thoughts, symptoms and mood.
  • Supportive quotes and images can be shared with others as part of a supportive, recovery-focused community.
  • Customize for your personal experience and goals.

Drawbacks:

  • Navigating the app and becoming familiar with all the features might be confusing to first-time users.
  • While answering the same questions several times during the day allows you to note any changes in your mood, it can also be redundant or time-consuming.

Mindfulness, Meditation & Mood

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3. Calm

Platforms: IOS & Android

 

Features:

  • 100+ meditations to reduce stress, manage anxiety, and help you sleep better.
  • Rated Apple’s “App of the Year” in 2017
  • The app also has breathing programs, music, and relaxing sounds to help relax your mind and body and promote better sleep.
  • Calm is good if you are new to meditation, but it also offers programs for more advanced users.
  • Meditation sessions range in length from 3–25 minutes, to fit your schedule

Drawbacks:

  • Free version has limited features.
  • Changing your personalized settings may be inflexible.
  • Seem to be some issues with non-Apple product compatibility (as I’m an Apple user I can’t comment on this myself)

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4. Headspace – Guided Meditation and Mindfulness

Platforms: IOS & Android

Features:

  • Has hundreds of meditations customized to your personal experience and goals. You can choose from guided meditations that suit your mood and lifestyle.
  • Find the benefits of mindfulness meditation in the palm of your hand and on the go.
  • Track your progress
  • Free introductory 10-day program to introduce you to the practice of mindfulness meditation.
  • Allows you to schedule time to practice within the app.

Drawbacks:

  • Continuing to use all features of the app requires paying for a subscription
  • Building a habit like meditation requires discipline and time commitment which is challenging in itself.
  • Targeted to beginners and more skeptical audiences so the features may feel too basic for those who are more advanced in meditation and already have experience.

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5. Pacifica (Now “Sanvello”)

Platforms: IOS, Android & Web

Features:

  • Based on CBT and mindfulness, Pacifica is an app focused on stress, anxiety, and depression
  • A “tool-box” app with quick activities that connects you to a supportive community.
  • Guided Paths are narrated self-help tools, designed by psychologists followed by related activities to teach CBT and mindfulness skills.
  • Pacifica/Sanvello promotes healthy habits by allowing you to keep track of your daily substance use, sleep, exercise, mood, sources of stress, goals, and menstruation.
  • Thoughts allows you to challenge your thinking patterns and develop healthier perspectives.
  • Offers 15 community chat groups in areas such as health, relationships, school, anxiety, work and stories.
  • Includes guided visualizations and breathing exercises

Drawbacks:

  • Not all features are available for free.
  • So many features it can be easy to get lost or overwhelmed.

 Impulse Control & Staying Safe

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6. Calm Harm

Platforms: IOS & Android

Features:

  • Provides resources & tasks to help you resist the urge to self-harm.
  • Promotes “urge surfing” by using DBT distraction techniques to wait for the intense impulses to subside.
  • Provides comforting strategies, safe alternatives to self-injury, and opportunities to express emotions in a different way.
  • Allows you to keep track of potential underlying triggers.
  • Password protected.
  • Weekly logs and progress can be reviewed

Drawbacks:

  • Activities might not be beneficial for everyone.
  • Best used for patients who already have strong motivation to work on impulse control.

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7. Mood Tools – Depression Aid

Platforms: IOS & Android

 

I haven’t personally used this app, but two aspects stand out to me and seem unique from others I’ve encountered.

  1. The Thought Record feature. This classic cognitive behavioral therapy technique allows you to identify distorted patterns of thinking associated with depressive cognitive schemata. It involves taking  a particular situation or thought that is causing you distress, analyzing how you are interpreting it, how that affects your mood, and how you can embrace a healthier perspective. Necessarily, this app makes using this CBT skill much easier with accessible prompts already at your fingertips.
  2. The Safety Plan feature allows you to keep note of personalized warning signs, and coping strategies for when your safety might be at risk. It also has a space to include important numbers for professionals to reach out to when you need intervention.

Drawbacks:

  • “Bare bones” interface, while easy to use, lacks graphics and is slightly text-heavy, appealing to a more academic audience rather than the average consumer.
  • Could take better advantage of smartphone features (i.e. alerts, etc.)

Physical Symptoms 

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 10.43.58 AM8. Flare Down

Platforms: IOS, Android & Web

Features:

  • Flare Down offers a comprehensive symptom tracker where you can record food, medication, mental health, weather, natural remedies, and activity trends.
  • The app will check in with you daily via e-mail reminders to make sure you consistently track your symptoms.
  • You can share your history with your family doctor, counsellor, family and friends.
  • You can view personalized trends to determine if there are relationships between triggers and symptoms but remember *correlation does not necessarily mean causation*.

Drawbacks:

  • Overlap between “symptoms” and “conditions” can be vague and it is up to the user to decide. May cause duplicates
  • Ease of use issues: Can be time consuming – you must enter data again every day.

Game-Style

sb-logo@2x.png9. SuperBetter

Platforms: IOS, Android & Web

 

Features:

  • An app that makes goal-setting into an interactive game where you can personalize long-term goals “epic wins” in addition to the intermediate steps “future boosts” you hope to take to get there.
  • Intended to help people improve their physical, mental, emotional and social resilience configured for an individual’s goals in areas such as nutrition, mental resilience, exercise, and social connection.
  • The app promotes completion of real-life activities or “quests”/”power ups” while reminding you to battle bad habits “bad guys”.
  • Provides a good structural framework for people to begin to incorporate behavioural changes into their lives based on what you determine to be important for you.

Drawbacks:

  • Because the scope of the content is so broad, there’s a lot that might not necessarily be appropriate for everyone (*likely not appropriate for people in recovery from eating disorders/disordered eating*)
  • Can be difficult to learn how to navigate the app.
  • Because its not exactly a game, this still requires a fair bit of intrinsic motivation on the part of the user

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10. Happify 

Platforms: IOS, Android & Web

Features:

  • Happify promotes skill-building for better stress management and a “happier life” by providing a variety of games, activities, quizzes and prompts tailored to building positive habits, skills, and a better mindset.
  • The four-week program offered through the app is generally considered easy to use with an appealing user interface.
  • Feedback and support are offered regularly in the Happify community and you can receive alerts to keep yourself on task.
  • Other features include a self-assessment test to identify your strengths, diary tasks,  mindfulness and gratitude practice.

Drawbacks:

  • Some activities might bring up negative associations (i.e. self-reflection activities prompting difficult emotions).
  • Not all features are free.
  • Alerts and “deadlines” can be stressful.
  • Not all game features are relevant for everyone and might feel invalidating/irrelevant (i.e. Uplift game promoting goals that you don’t aspire to achieve).

Crisis Text-Lines

US & UK: www.crisistextline.org | Text “HOME” to 741741

Canada: www.crisistextline.ca | Text “HOME” to 686868

7 thoughts on “10 Free Mental Health Apps

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