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An app to help your mental health?

By Amara Coelho

Researchers at UofG are collaborating on an app to help mental health, but is the app store already filled with similar programmes?

Over the course of this past year, the gradual escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic has not only dramatically disrupted many of our regular routines and activities, but the long-lasting implications of the disease has secluded many of us into an isolation spanning up from a couple of months to potentially many more. While the long-lasting effects of the crisis are yet to be unveiled, several studies have already affirmed that the effects of social isolation have not just been profound due to physical isolation but also psychological. Loneliness has been linked with having a significant impact, especially on the brain, in the absence of comfort and support we usually receive and provide through means of social interaction.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow form part of the University of Exeter-led, pan-European project to develop an app to attempt to combat such feelings. This app, using smartphones, can help to improve mental health by aiding management of the symptoms of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and improve the overall wellbeing of the individual. The project aims to encourage adolescents and young adults aged 16-22 years to utilise the app called “MyMoodCoach app” by noting down details such as logging their mood and emotions daily and providing users with a summary of their emotional patterns and behaviours from the pre-collected data. Furthermore, for a select portion of the user base, an additional option will be made available to them where the app itself will offer prospective strategies and methods to help users take charge and improve their emotional wellbeing.  It aims to achieve this by monopolizing on a combination of novel research associated with cognitive behavioural therapy (or CBT) and self-help strategies and monitoring. 

The scheme itself is still within the early stages; with the European Commission’s framework programme for Research and Innovation is expected to be employed between October 2020 and May 2021. From current information available, the app appears to have a very clean interface and adopts an extremely eye-catching blue and orange colour scheme. In order to learn the user’s most frequent emotions, the app has an Emotion Monitor which monitors mood change over time as users record their mood five times a day over the course of a fortnight, with notifications to help users be more self-aware of their moods. There could be potential for improvement in regard to the app’s name however, as while “MyMoodCoach app” does explain the function of the app, it is quite lengthy and not especially unique. 

Based on the style in which information is gathered by the app, the app may possibly be based on an algorithm which matches the user’s data input to specified criteria designed by the researchers involved in its creation. After hypothetically matching the user to a specific criteria(s), there may be certain advice or strategies which will then be recommended to the user, to prospectively help alleviate their potential worries. Yet a quick browse of the app store reveals that this concept is not exactly an untapped market; from the notorious Headspace which has gained immense popularity in helping individuals with mindfulness and stress relief, to Daylio Journal which also offers a similar mood tracking style approach to that proposed by MyMoodCoach App. However, it is still a welcome addition to the applications, as it targets a highly specific demographic, meaning that the implications from the data collected could be not only very useful in helping with monitoring emotions, but also it has huge potential in the development of future strategies for tackling mental health issues. 


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