The Smart Side of Smart Phones – Our phones can help in the management of anxiety and depression.

All of us know someone who suffers from debilitating psychological health issues.

Sometimes we know and sometimes we don’t know!

Why, because often people prefer this to “fly under the radar”. These health concerns are often brought on and certainly exacerbated by life circumstances and in their most debilitating forms, such as depression and anxiety, they really can have a profound effect on a person’s ability to cope with everyday life.

Naturally, this time of year is an increased time of stress, as we’re often working harder to tie up loose ends, whilst being called upon by friends and family for catch-ups. Christmas time and end of year holidays are seen by many as an opportunity to spend time with those closest and dearest to celebrate the past year and to relax. For most of us, the festive season can be a time of increased stress and pressure, but for some there is the added weight of disappointment, isolation and loneliness. This time of year can easily trigger feelings of anxiety and depression, particularly for those who are vulnerable.

Depression and anxiety, along with other mental health conditions, are a major concern within the Australian, and the worldwide community. Currently, three million Australians are living with depression or anxiety, with every day seven people taking their own lives. In fact, 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness in the next 12 months.

For young people, mental illness is far too common, with 26.4% of Australians aged 16 to 24 currently having experienced a mental health disorder in the last 12 months. Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians, accounting for the deaths of more young people than car accidents (in 2012, 324 Australians aged 15-24 died by suicide, in comparison to 198 by car accident).

In the age of smartphones, there are now many new and innovative ways to assist us to manage anxiety and depression, from our own phone, as well as, of course, tablets and computers. With a range of Apps and Online Resources available, this can enable those who are not ready to seek help or those afraid to speak out, to gain further knowledge and strategies to implement and assist in improving mental health.

As well as this, phone Apps allow for a way to manage your anxiety or mood at any given time, including when we are on the bus, in a meeting or at a social gathering.

The range of Apps and online resources available is quite extensive and can seem overwhelming to work through and decide on one that best suits your needs and lifestyle. For this reason, I have compiled a non-exhaustive list of some of the highly recommended Apps that are available.

Anxiety and Depression

ReachOut Breathe​

  • “ReachOut Breathe” helps to control the users breathing and heart rate; increases their sense of calm and ease; and addresses the physical symptoms of stress

  • Helps to control the users breathing and measure their heart rate in real-time using the camera in the phone – addressing the onset of physical symptoms of stress; including shortness of breath, increased heart rate and tightening of the chest

  • Allows the user to set up a preferred breathing rate and measures their baseline heart rate using their phone

  • It is simple and can be used at any time and is a good support to help cope with the onset of panic or anxiety

  • Free for iPhone and android

ReachOut WorryTime

  • “ReachOut WorryTime” allows the user to store their worries and provides alerts when it’s time to think about them. When a worry no longer matters to them, they can ditch it and move on

  • The reasoning behind the App is that we can’t control the thoughts that pop into your head, but we can control what we do with them. The App allows us to control everyday stress and anxiety by acting as a place to store our daily worries.

  • Once the user has entered their worries into the WorryTime app, they can customise the settings to suit their schedule. They can choose a time in the day that works best for them, and WorryTime will send an alert when it's time to think about what's been stressing them out.

  • Free for iPhone and android


  • “Pacifica” lets the user rate and track mood over time, and provides deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, daily anti-anxiety experiments and health goals

  • Users can record their own thoughts to help analyse and understand thinking patterns, as well as discovering and tracking possible triggers

  • Free for iPhone and Android


  • “Breathe2Relax” is a portable stress management tool

  • It is a hands-on diaphragmatic breathing exercise

  • Breathing exercises have been documented to decrease the body's 'fight-or-flight' (stress) response, and help with mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety management

  • Capitalising on touch-screen technology, a user can record their stress level on a 'visual analogue scale' by simply swiping a small bar to the left or to the right

  • Free for iPhone and Android

Self-help for Anxiety Management (SAM)

  • “SAM” is used to help regain control of anxiety and emotions

  • This App works to help users understand what causes their anxiety, monitors their anxious thoughts and behaviour over time and manages their anxiety through self-help exercises and private reflection

  • The “Social Cloud” feature will also enables users to share their experiences with the SAM community while protecting their identity

  • Free for iPhone and Android

Sleep Time – Alarm Clock

  • “Sleep Time” uses the sensitive accelerometer in the smartphone to tell the user how quickly they are falling asleep, when they enter each phase of sleep and how efficient each sleep cycle is

  • When it’s time to wake up, the Sleep Time App gently wakes the user at the ideal time, not in the middle of a deep slumber

  • Free for iPhone and android

Targeted at Young People

Smiling Mind

  • “Smiling Mind” is a modern meditation for young people. It is a unique web and App based program designed to help bring balance to young lives.

  • The App is specifically targeted at young people overwhelmed by stress, anxiety or depression.

  • Developed by psychologists with special training in adolescent therapy, the App helps to teach young people about mindfulness meditation.

  • Includes daily meditations geared for specific age groups.

  • Can keep track of how many minutes the user has meditated, and provides guided meditations if the user has never meditated before.

  • Free for iPhone and android

Mind Shift

  • “Mind Shift” is designed to help young adults better cope with their anxiety

  • The App acts as an on-the-go virtual coach, helping young people to manage their mild to moderate anxiety in the moment they feel it take over

  • Young people can use the App to identify specific situations unique to their anxiety and create a personal plan to tackle each situation.

  • Expert tips and techniques are also available for additional insights

  • Focus groups with real young people were used to design the App, ensuring that the text was kept short, the app downloadable to save on data plans and the name and icon of the App less-than-obvious to ensure that friends wouldn’t automatically know they were coping with anxiety

  • Free for iPhone and Android


PTSD Coach

  • “PTSD Coach” provides reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work

  • From the National Centre for PTSD this App is designed specifically for veterans

  • Tools for screening and tracking symptoms

  • Convenient, easy-to-use tools to help handle stress symptoms

  • Direct links to support and help

  • Always with you when you need it

  • Free for iPhone and Android

How to start a conversation

The Check-in App

  • “The Check-in App” was developed for anyone who wants to check in with a friend but is concerned about what to say, saying the wrong thing or making the situation worse

  • The App takes the user through 4 quick and easy steps – encouraging them to think about where they might check in, what they might say and how they might support their friend

  • A section is also available which shows the user things to consider, for example if their friend denies there is a problem or if they say something inappropriate

  • After the user has had the conversation, the App can provide advice on their next step

These Apps allow users to monitor their symptoms, acquire knowledge, develop strategies and enable them to assist others, in a non-intrusive and easy-to-access manner. Despite the bad wrap that smart phones sometimes get for isolating people and producing unsociable behaviour, they do really have their benefits. People need to be smart about how they use their smart phones.

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