Clear Mind Project: Teen boys help other teens find mental health support
According to charity Young Minds, 67% of young people felt the pandemic would have a long-term impact on their mental health.
Now, a group of teenage boys are working together to figure out how technology, in the form of health apps, can support their peers through tough times.
The Clear Mind Project, a name which the boys themselves chose, was instigated by Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO of Daresbury-based health tech specialist ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps).
Luke Scott, 15, Ollie Rawlinson John, 16, James McCann, 17, and Marcus Ashall-Payne, 16, were invited to take part in a work experience project, which challenged them to select a number of health apps focusing on mental health support for young people and to promote them to as wide an audience as possible.
Having selected the five apps they wished to recommend, the boys created a leaflet for distribution at their schools and a series of TikTok videos and Instagram posts. They also produced a presentation, featuring their top five recommended apps, which they delivered to 400 students via the Speakers for Schools project and to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) professionals in Cambridgeshire and Surrey.
Highlights of the project were a visit by Weaver Vale MP, Mike Amesbury, to the ORCHA headquarters at the Sci-Tech Daresbury business park and a radio interview with the Word on Health programme, which is broadcast on community radio across the UK.
Commenting on his visit, Mike Amesbury said: “It was a delight to meet James and hear more about the project. Mental illness is something that affects all ages. Statistics show around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. The pandemic has exacerbated this even more.
“James and other young people in his team identified quality mental health apps which they then promoted to their peers through a social media campaign. They also worked alongside NHS clinicians in a truly innovative project that gave a voice to young people in the important and growing area of digital health.”
The teens commented that the pandemic had put extra pressure on themselves and on their peers. James said: The severe social isolation caused by the pandemic has led to many people struggling to revert to a normal social life. I think this can contribute to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.”
Ollie added: “A lot of people will have broken up from school and be thinking now about exam results, which will also be causing them stress. They need high quality health apps – ones which will help with mental health support and be safe for teens.”
Liz Ashall-Payne said: “This is our first youth project but we intend to do more. We are blown away by what the boys have achieved and we sincerely hope that the five apps chosen by the Clear Mind Project will help young people.”
Liz added: “We’d also like to reach out to schools across our region, as we offer a Digital Healthy Schools programme. With young people increasingly turning to their phones for support with their health, we want to make absolutely sure that they understand how and where to find high quality apps, which will be safe for them to use.”
The five apps recommended by the Clear Mind Project team are:
Wysa is an AI chatbot that uses cognitive behavioural techniques to ensure that patients feel heard. The app’s conversational coaching tools are powered by the AI bot to allow users to express their feelings confidently and anonymously. These tools help users to cultivate confidence, reduce anxiety and improve general wellbeing.
Platforms: Apple iOS and Android
Cost: In-app purchases but students get premium free
ORCHA score: 85%
MeeToo is an app that allows users to share their struggles and receive advice from other users. It is aimed at anyone who is above the age of eleven and creates an accessible and comforting atmosphere for users going through a variety of issues. The app has a social media-like layout which the majority of teenagers will be very familiar with, making it more appealing and engaging. MeeToo has an age band feature that connects app users to others of a similar age.
Platforms: Apple iOS, Google, Android
ORCHA score: 81%
APART OF ME
Apart of Me is a game app that is described as “A beautiful world, built to guide you through your darkest moments.” It is designed to help younger audiences cope with grief, anticipatory grief and loss. It includes interactive features such as journals that share real life experiences of other teenagers that have been through grief and loss, and they share their own personal methods they use to cope during their difficult times.
Platforms: Apple iOS, Android
ORCHA score: 80%
BRAIN IN HAND
This helps provide structure to people’s lives when they need help remembering things, making decisions, planning, or managing anxiety. It is mostly used by people who are autistic, have learning difficulties or who are battling mental health challenges. It combines digital self-management technology with human support to help people live a more independent lifestyle.
Platforms: Apple iOS, Android, Web
ORCHA score: 88%
RR: EATING DISORDER MANAGEMENT
Recovery Record helps people with eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. It can also help with general eating, weight and shape concerns. Users can keep a record of meals, thoughts and feelings, view charts that highlight insights, trends and progress plus receive and send encouraging messages and virtual gifts to/from other users.
Platforms: Apple iOS and Android
ORCHA score: 82%