New Apps Feature Mental Health Support for Students
College can be stressful even under normal circumstances. Add to the mix a global pandemic, cries for social justice and the fallout of a heated election? It’s no surprise that students are feeling emotional strain, fear and anxiety.
The University of Oregon has partnered with two new apps to provide students with easily accessible services that can help improve their mental health, encourage interaction with others and build resilience.
Self-guided and interactive tools for managing mental well-being
A free resource for all UO students, WellTrack is a self-guided and interactive app that enables users to track their moods, feelings and thoughts while providing coping mechanisms to mitigate intense stress and maintain mental wellness through all of their life events.
Users typically begin with WellTrack’s well-being assessment, which they can revisit as needed. The app contains a suite of other tools, including mood tracking, mindfulness and relaxation recordings, breathing exercises and short educational videos.
“The MoodCheck and Thought Diary tools are especially helpful,” Lin said. “Tracking moods throughout the day helps a student better understand their own mental health. In addition, documenting one’s thoughts can point out cognitive distortions—unhealthful thinking styles that students often engage in. WellTrack suggests ways to reframe these negative perceptions.”
At a time when so many people are tied to their phones, Lin noted that WellTrack’s emphasis on self-care doesn’t ignore social interaction. Scheduler and tracker components suggest helpful activities to do with others, after which the user can reflect on how the activities made them feel.
“While students will log in using their Duck ID, the app is secure and confidential,” said Alisia Caban, PhD, associate director and clinical director at University Counseling Services. “A student receiving treatment from Counseling Services can choose to grant permission for their therapist to track their progress, but that is optional and up to the student.”
“In addition, WellTrack is tailored for our campus and offers students a list of resources specific to our university and local community, so students know where to go and who to contact should they have concerns related to finances, academics, or other issues,” Caban said.
Combat feelings of isolation by creating social connections
Building social connections in college is a core component of the student experience. But as the world continues to cope with COVID-19, creating these friendships has become more challenging than ever.
Prevention specialists at the UO are looking to Nod, a research-backed app developed by Hopelab and Grit Digital Health, to help students engage with one another. As supported by UO professor Jennifer Pfeifer’s study in 2019, the app taps into positive psychology and the science of social connections to help students build important relationships.
Frazee explained that Nod is not a social media app, but rather encourages students to achieve social goals in real life, which in turn enables them to form and maintain relationships.
Nod prompts users to interact with people in various ways they may not think of on their own, such as questions to ask that spur conversations. There are also brief in-app exercises to help users track their moods, reduce self-criticism and build resilience.
Emma Ly, peer educator at the Duck Nest Wellness Center, has been using the app and loves all the features of it.
“Nod provides you with such doable suggestions that get you out of the app and interacting with the world,” Ly said.
Students can download Nod on their cell phones from the App Store or Google Play. Nod is licensed by the UO, so students will create their confidential accounts using their Duck ID.
“We know that college can be a lonely and isolating time for students,” said Kate Stoysich, health promotion specialist at University Health Services. “We are really excited that Nod has the potential for helping students find community here at the UO.”