Mental health apps for sleep, anxiety and depression to try in 2020

From meditation prompts to wellbeing chatbots, the apps you need to know

Technology is often criticised for worsening our mental health, particularly social media.

According to figures by Time to Talk day, even though the average person in London has 540 friends on social media, 20 per cent of people say they wouldn’t feel able to call up any of those friends if they were struggling with their mental health. And given we’re all going to be social distancing, this feels more important than ever. 

There are a raft of start-ups using the power of tech and apps to help people with their mental health.

It’s paying off: according to research by Accenture, people in the UK are increasingly turning to tech to help them look after their mental health. Around 39 per cent of people said they were using such tools as online services, apps and wearables to manage their stress, improve sleep and boost their mental wellbeing.

Here are a few apps to try to help you care for your mental health. 

Best apps for mental health 

1. Mindscape

Mindscape is a mental health app launched by creative agency Cult in 2018, combining voice technology, artificial intelligence and science-led music therapy in one handy app.

Developed in consultation with mental health charity Mind, the app is aimed at people dealing with panic attacks or anxiety.

The voice app talks people through relaxing breathing exercises, before asking them questions about their current emotional state. It can offer practical tips for managing work, money, education and sleep and also has bespoke soundscapes tailored to the person using the app.

2. Urban 

Wellness app Urban, which usually offers wellbeing treatments from the comfort of your own home, has introduced a new category to its online offering ‘The stay at home club’ in response to the coronavirus crisis.

It will offer one-to-one live streamed sessions, including private mindfulness classes, yoga, physiotherapy sessions and fitness classes, in a bid to support practitioners and isolated customers during the outbreak.

Classes will start at £15 for a 20-minute meditation session, rising to £49 for a 55-minute physiotherapy session – and 70 per cent of all fees will go to the practitioner.

3. HealthUnlocked Communities

One difficult part of dealing with any health issue is feeling isolated and alone. HealthUnlocked Communities wants to solve this.

It’s like a social network of communities, linked by health. Different communities focus on different areas from exercise to anxiety. These communities provide a space for people to meet others going through similar issues, enabling them to receive emotional support in return. 

Charities and patient organisations monitor the different communities too, to ensure people are sharing the right information. 

4. Tomo 

Chatbots are a fun way to interact with tech and Tomo is a bot that comes with some hidden benefits. The app enables you to ‘find healthy habits’ and record how you’re feeling, so you can keep track of what’s going on.

As you talk to Tomo, it learns about your lifestyle and how you handle challenges and then suggests new habits for you to try. Every time you complete a habit, Tomo invites you to share a photo of your achievement with the community, so you can receive virtual congrats from the Tomo cohort.

This virtual buddy system is designed to ensure your habits stick. 

The app is completely anonymous and not a social network, but instead, a tool to help you take control of your mental health.

5. DrugStars 

If you take medication for a condition, it can be tricky to remember the right time and day to take it. DrugStars is an app that reminds you when to take your meds, as agreed with your doctor, and you collect a star every time you do it.

In time, you can donate the stars you earn to health charities, which DrugStars then turns into real money.

Not only are you taking your meds on time, but you’re also helping other people in the process.

You can donate your DrugStars to the UK-based charity No Panic, which helps people who suffer from anxiety disorders, or Crohns & Colitis UK, which supports people with inflammatory bowel disease. 

6. Echo 

Another prescription app, Echo not only reminds you take your meds but it does a few other things too. Echo reminds you when you need to get more medication, so you’re always on track. Not only that, but it even delivers your meds straight to your door. 

Echo’s co-founder Stephen Bourke wanted to use his experience of generalised anxiety disorder to help others with mental health problems. He told the Standard: “A lot of people with mental health conditions can be quite disengaged. If I have a moment of anxiety, I don’t want to think about it once it’s passed. I don’t want to think about my meds, I just want to get back to business. What we’re doing with Echo is removing the barriers to get medication so we can improve outcomes across the system and also make life more convenient for both the patient and the GP.”

This should come in particularly handy if you’re not able to visit a doctor to get a new prescription as a result of the coronavirus social distancing measures. 

7. Moodrise

Wellness app Moodrise is all about “digital nutrition”: using positive content to help alleviate pain, boost emotional resilience and improve experiences.

The app focuses on six popular mood states, including confidence, focus and happiness, and the related neurotransmitters that lead to that mood state. Content has been specifically created to help deliver the desired chemical reaction in the brain, backed by scientific research.

The idea is that people can proactively manage their mental health through “digital pills” to help them enhance their own emotional resilience. 

8. Headspace

Headspace is one of the best apps out there when it comes to mindfulness and meditation, with 62 million people across the world using the app to improve their mental health. Studies have shown that using Headspace can improve focus, compassion and reduce aggression.  The app encourages you to start slow and build up the practice of meditation. “Just as you wouldn’t expect to start running and become a marathon runner overnight, you need to approach meditation the same way,” Headspace’s chief scientific officer Dr Megan Jones Bell, told the Standard.

During the coronavirus global shutdown, Headspace is adding a new “Weathering the storm” collection of meditation and mindfulness content that will be free to access. It includes topics focusing on navigating change, reframing anxiety and advice for difficult times. 

9. Calmer You

If there’s ever a time to launch an app to deal with anxiety, then it’s during the global coronavirus pandemic. That wasn’t the thinking behind Calmer You, a new app by Headspace’s former head of research Nick Begley, and author and anxiety expert, Chloe Brotheridge, when they released Calmer You in February but there you go.

The app offers CBT, workouts, journalling and breathing exercises, all aimed at helping those with anxiety to deal with the multi-faceted nature of the condition. There’s a freemium version, whilst to get the full effects a subscription costs £5.99 a month or £35.99 for the year.