Let’s Talk: Innovation and Youth Mental Health Apps

Today marks the annual #BellLetsTalk Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and fundraising for mental health programs, initiatives, and services.

Our approach to Let’s Talk is indeed to talk, but also to act. And that’s why we want to tell you about our work, in partnership with RBC Future Launch, exploring a virtual youth mental health apps database to help young people (and their families and service providers) to find the right apps for their unique context and needs.

The world of apps is immense and complicated, especially when we’re talking about mental health. There are literally tens of thousands of apps out there, thousands of which focus on some aspect of mental health and well-being, ranging from mindfulness meditation apps to clinical, cognitive behavioral therapy-based apps.

“Mental health apps can be used by themselves or in tandem with each other. For example, if you struggle with a mood disorder, you might want to get an app designed to help track your moods to see how they are impacted by your routine. You might also decide to use an app that gives you access to a therapist in an emergency. These apps can also be used in concert with treatments that your doctor or therapist may have prescribed.”

While apps definitely have an important role to play in a modern, innovative mental healthcare system, the sheer number of apps put youth, families, and service providers in a tough spot – trying to find a good app, one that works for what they need, becomes an absolute nightmare in and of itself.

Our work with RBC Future Launch is trying to tackle this very issue. We’re drawing on exemplary work from the United States, the United Kingdom and other jurisdiction to create a virtual youth mental health apps database, where young people, service providers and families can use co-created criteria to find an app that meets their particular context and needs.

As a business built on co-creation, we know that we can’t do this work right without engaging young people, families and service providers every step of the way. We’re already on track, with a national youth advisory committee and steering committee of partner organizations like the Mental Health Commission of Canada, FRAYME, Access Open Minds and more, but we need your help to ensure what we create is truly reflective of the needs of youth, families and service providers in every province and territory across Canada. 

Based on research done by the Homewood Research Institute (notably, a phenomenal report proposing a framework for evaluating youth mental health apps that we highly recommend reading), and from what we’re hearing across the youth mental health sector, we know that the evidence behind an app, if there’s a cost, how an app deals with privacy, and how user-friendly the design is all matter, but we need to know what else matters most to you, what you need to know in order to find the right app for what you need.

We’ve created a survey you can fill out to share your thoughts, or you can sign up for a focus group or key informant interview to weigh-in on a virtual youth mental health apps database. Everything we hear will be rolled together for in-depth analysis and a thematic review to confirm a way forward that responds to your needs.

We have a unique opportunity, right now, to tackle an emerging issue in the youth mental health sector, to create and implement a database that will revolution how youth, service providers and families in Canada find and use mental health apps. Let’s act on it together.

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