There is a loneliness epidemic. It is far older than COVID-19, and the virus is certainly making it worse. Numerous health and mental health experts believe that with all of the closures and shutdowns, we are headed for a second wave to the Coronavirus pandemic that is even harder to respond to or see: loneliness, sadness, and depression.
Crisis Text Line
Screenshot Crisis Text Line by TJ McCue
Let’s get right to it: If you or someone you know or love is having a tough go, mentally or otherwise, and you think you or they need to talk to an expert or someone trained, try some of these services or mobile apps (long post, keep reading to get to the apps).
“Social distancing may be lonely, but you’re not alone,” is what the New York-based, Crisis Text Line, states on their website. It is a not-for-profit service providing free, confidential support for people in crisis via text message, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Crisis Counselors complete a 30-hour training and have round-the-clock supervision by full-time Crisis Text Line mental health professionals. In the US, Text CRISIS to 741741 to be connected to a trained Crisis Counselor. Click the link above to get other international instructions, where available.
In a recent post (well, six weeks ago, but that feels like a lifetime), Notes on Coronavirus: How is America Feeling? Part 1, co-founder and CEO Nancy Lublin offered this data, based on thousands of interactions via text messages with people in a crisis or mental health need:
- America is feeling intense anxiety (again, this is six weeks old)
- Our texters are skewing older than we normally see. Read: teens are handling this better than adults
- We’re keeping an eye on child abuse and domestic violence as quarantines grow and people are trapped at home with abusers
Things that are working to help people stay calm (that you might want to use too):
- References to time frame (ie “What things can you do tomorrow to stay strong?” or “Tell me about your plans for the next 3 days”)
- Validating pain. Using phrases like “It’s normal to feel freaked out right now” or “Yeah, it’s ok to feel stressed out today.”
The Crisis Text Line blog, called Everyday Empathy, is excellent and worth reading. Lublin’s “Part 6” post is filled with the most recent mental health data as well as some other insights based on caller demographics.
Listed below are a number of well-reviewed and rated mobile apps for both Android and iPhone or iPad, so take a look at these. Most of them are free, with in-app ads, purchases, or upgrades, unless otherwise noted. The NAMI guide linked above lists out numerous meditation apps (on page 5) that you might also find useful.
TalkLife is a peer-to-peer community, meaning that volunteers of all ages get trained and then offer you a safe space to discuss depression or other mental health needs. They also have a student-focused option for colleges and universities to meet their student needs. Get the TalkLife app on Android or iOS.
Replika AI Companion for mental health
TJ McCue screenshot of Replika
Replika will be a bit of a different app, for some, as it is a personal, artificial intelligence app where you create your own friend that you can talk to, 24/7. Thousands of people have tried it, and joined its Facebook community as well. Replika on iOS (it is also #61 in Health and Fitness). Get Replika on Android.
Talkspace shows as free on the Apple App Store, but as far as I could find, it is a paid subscription service without a free plan on either iOS or Android. It starts at $65/week (billed monthly). The site has a terrific COVID-19 resource page and has an offer for free services (one month) for healthcare professionals and first responders.
Moodpath Mobile App screens
Moodpath – Depression & Anxiety Test is your personalized mental health companion. It asks you questions to encourage you and to help determine your emotional well-being. There are plenty of exercises and tools that can help you through a variety of moods and moments. Available on iOS and Android.
Youper is another artificial intelligence (AI) tool that personalizes various techniques to you. It leverages strategies from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, and other approaches. You chat back and forth with this AI assistant and it asks you, or prompts you to think about your thought patterns and behaviors. Then it walks you through techniques that can help you in the moment, based on your responses. Youper on Android or iOS.
Sanvello is an evidence-based mobile care solution created by clinical experts that allows you to access on-demand help for stress, anxiety, and depression. It combines various clinical techniques, such as CBT, that can help you learn how to feel happier and build the life skills needed to keep you on a more positive course. The company is offering their premium access for free to everyone during the COVID-19 crisis—no special action required. It is also covered by many U.S.-based health plan insurance providers. It is often rated the #1 app for stress, anxiety, and depression. Find Sanvello on iOS or on Google Play where it is an Editor’s Choice.
Happify is the last of many apps that I explored — apps to help you when you are discouraged, feeling depressed, or simply gridlocked by COVID-19. It has a fun and uplifting approach and looks to use science-based games and activities to help you overcome various mental health and other challenges. I was particularly drawn to the descriptions of people who commented on overcoming negativity or deep skepticism and how the app help them reframe that. Check out Happify on Android or here on iOS.
So, if you or someone you know is suffering from any mental health challenge, COVID-19 or something else, please check out these mobile apps and many government resources. Also, please share this post with others who may find it helpful. It can sound trite, but we are all in this together and if you can lift someone up with this content, do so, and please let me know on social.