Mental health apps | Advice for young people | Jigsaw Online

Mental health apps

The App Store or Google Play hosts thousands of apps claiming to help people with their mental health.

With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start or which to trust.

What are the best mental health apps?

At Jigsaw, we are often asked which are the best apps for anxiety or what we would recommend. Research and evidence is an important part of our work, so that we can really stand behind what we say. To ensure we recommend apps that are safe to use, with funding from ESB Energy for Generations, we embarked on an review project. The aim was to identify apps that might be helpful to young people in managing their mental health.

This simple app works really well for mindfulness and coping. I use it almost every day and find it really useful!

Christina, 23 years-old talking about Worrytime app

Mental health apps review

Firstly, we asked clinicians in Jigsaw, and some of our volunteers (YAP members) what apps they used. We then looked to see which apps were being recommended elsewhere. With a final list of free apps relevant to youth mental health, we reviewed them in more depth.

For each one, a member of staff and one of our young volunteers used it for a period of time and completed a questionnaire about it. This questionnaire included the Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS). It rates engagement, functionality, aesthetics, information and subjective quality. Apps that were rated highly by both staff and a young person were then double checked to ensure the content was clinically accurate. You can find the list of apps that made the grade below.

I most definitely would have it permanently downloaded on my phone as it is a reallllllly good app for anyone suffering from anxiety or just who gets really anxious or nervous quite frequently.

Mikayla, 22 years-old talking about SAM app

Does it do what it says?

We found very few evidence based mental health apps are free. Although many some apps make big claims of improved mental health, take these with a pinch of salt. Research really needs to be conducted to see whether an app can make significant improvements to people’s mental health.

Look in the app description on the App Store or Google Play for any evidence the developer can provide. If possible, check on the app website. Evidence is more than user testimonials, but details of actual clinical trials.

It’s good idea to see how the development was funded. App development can be quite expensive, which is a reason so few are clinically evaluated, so ultimately it’s good to know who’s paying for it and why. Don’t buy an app or subscription unless you have tried the free version first and think it might work for you.

I would recommend this app as I feel it helps you keep on top of your mood without having to carry a diary.

Ali 23 years-old, talking about Daylio app

Safety considerations

When downloading an mental health app, consider what data it asks for. Try to find out what it does with your data, and whether it will be shared with others. Decide whether you are comfortable with this. Some apps act as links to online chat rooms and communities. Some might see this as a bonus, for others it could be a worry. Check whether an app has links to an online community before you download it.

There is no ‘perfect’ app when it comes to mental health. Different ones suit different people at different times. The beauty of apps is that you can download, play around with them, and if they are not helpful, you can delete them. Hopefully the list below will point you in the direction of some to try.

There are plenty of apps that are good for mental health, but that may not be their main objective. You mind find playing certain games can calm your anxiety, or writing things down in a notepad on your phone helps your mood.

Apps are just one of the many ways to look after mental health. Take a look at ‘Five and day‘ and ‘when do I need to get help for my mental health?‘.

Mental health apps we recommend:

Booster Buddy icon

Booster Buddy

Designed to help teens and young adults improve their mental health. Earn achievements as you work through a series of daily quests designed to establish and sustain positive habits.

Daylio app

Daylio

A mood tracker app. Discover hidden patterns and use it to create some useful daily habits.

Forest logo

Forest

This helps you put down your phone and focus on what is important to you.

ReachOut Worry Time

ReachOut WorryTime

WorryTime helps you set aside worries until later, so you don't get caught up in them and can get on with your day.

Stop Breathe Think app

Stop Breathe Think

Allows you to check in with your emotions, and recommends short guided meditations, yoga and acupressure videos, tuned to how you feel.

Mindshift app

MindShift

MindShift™ CBT uses strategies based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help you relax and use active steps to take charge of your anxiety.

SAM app logo

SAM app

SAM offers a range of self-help methods to help manage anxiety developed by a university team of psychologists, computer scientists and student users.

Smiling mind app

Smiling Mind

This is non-for-profit web and app-based meditation programme developed by psychologists and educators to bring mindfulness into all our lives.

1 giant mind logo

1 Giant Mind

Learn to meditate in 12 easy steps, then take the 30 day challenge to make meditation a daily habit.