If you’ve ever felt too awkward to speak to a psychologist or simply find the cost of counselling to be unsustainable, the good news is that help is closer than you think. Picture it: a therapist, life coach and more in your pocket or on your wrist thanks to these homegrown mental health-focused apps. Created by Singaporean founders that are committed to changing the way we approach anxiety, stress or low moods, these apps have taken the world by storm. And while they may not always replace one-on-one encounters with a professional, here’s how they offer coping tools to keep us uplifted in meaningful ways.
Intellect Mental Wellbeing App
With over two million users globally, Intellect provides an easy way to work on your mental health through self-guided programs and/or via a live Intellect coach or counsellor, explains CEO and founder, Theodoric Chew. “We’ve all experienced different forms of anxiety, isolation and stressors; making it really key that we take time to attend to our wellbeing.”
With the cost of therapy being prohibitive to many, Intellect aims to overcome the pricey nature of therapy while breaking the “stigma in accessing mental wellbeing support.” With Intellect and in general, one needn’t wait for a crisis to manage their mental wellbeing. “Rather than going upfront clinical, we help individuals take their first step on their wellbeing journey through easy means, before recommending the right level of support (be it live care or self-guided) once they have a better awareness of themselves.”
Intellect draws from two expert panels: first, an in-house clinical team of psychologists and researchers who design programs and “drive research studies with research partners,” says Chew. “Secondly, we’re advised by a robust scientific advisory board that consists of renowned professors and clinical psychologists to ensure we’re building a safe and effective evidence-based approach to digital mental wellbeing.”
In line with Intellect’s focus on proactive and preventative mental health care, the founder says the app has seen a spike content related to anxiety, relationship issues and sleep over the past year. “This trend seems to apply across different age groups and demographics” and has been “induced by global pandemic fears and the change in how we live and work, be it in school or offices.”
For Apple Watch users, the app will soon be integrated with the device, prompting users in a timely manner when they most need support. “Apple’s focus on health excites us in the different ways we can support better mental health for users,” says Chew. “Rather than seeing technology as something we need time away from, I believe that technology broadly resembles a blank canvas and can be spun into many beneficial means if we design it right. It just so happens that a lot of apps and social media platforms we interact with today tend to want to pull us in and keep us there. In our case, we’re designing Intellect to create a better state of mind and wellbeing for people, and I’m sure there are many other great means to do so too.”
Journey Journaling app
For a safe, secure space to purge your anger and frustration or even write down your dreams and new goals in black and white, journaling could be the perfect outlet for you. “Journaling helps you to get in touch with your feelings and become more mindful,” says Journey co-founder Yap Wei Yao. “Journaling teaches us that we’re unique. When you first start writing, you might feel that you have nothing special to write. Once you get the hang of things, you’ll soon realise that there are so many interesting things to take note of in your life. It’s only when we stop to journal that we notice just how unique our lives can be.”
For the Journey founders, “true self-care is about adopting daily habits for a healthier mind, body and soul.” Beyond being a space to jot down feelings, Journey contains geotagging, the capability to upload pictures and a mood tracker.
“It’s about being your number one fan and encouraging yourself, living in the present, practicing mindfulness and most importantly, writing for yourself!”
Since launching their weekly ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ and ‘Letting Go’ coaching programs, Yap shares that the app has seen a “18.2 per cent increase in the average time spent by each user on writing and a 37.9 per cent increase in users using the coach programs during the pandemic. One user even mentioned about how they were able to use Journey as their quarantine journal,” says Yap.
So why an app and not a physical journal? The Journey founders decided to create the app after recognising that most of us “often carry our iPhones, iPads or Macbooks with us. A digital journal app is more eco-friendly and more convenient since everyone brings their phones around these days,” says Yap who adds that the “inter-connectivity of Apple’s products and services, such as Apple sign-in, Siri, Apple Music and iCloud, makes the experience seamless when users jump from one device to another. However, if you are old school and enjoy the tactile feel of writing on a physical journal, “you can write a journal entry on Journey using an Apple Pencil.”
And if concerned at the thought of your deepest, darkest secrets being leaked on the web, fret not. With privacy at the core of Journey and Apple, you can rest assured that your musings are secure. “We have several privacy and security features for our users’ peace of mind,” assures Yap. “Not only can you set up a passcode, but you can also use Apple Face ID and Touch ID to keep your journal safe on Journey. With the introduction of app privacy details on the App Store, users will be privy to Journey’s privacy practices prior to installation so that they know that their deepest darkest secrets will stay between their journal and themselves.”
What if there were a way to de-stress mind and body, mastering your ‘fight of flight’ mode while stabilising your emotions? It’s all possible with meditation and breathwork, or the conscious act of manipulating the breath for clearer thought.
A decade ago, MindFi‘s founder and CEO Bjorn Lee suffered chest pains from stressful 100-hour work weeks and believed he was in the throes of a heart attack at the age of 29. “Today, I have learned that high stress can be managed effectively with mindfulness and I practice it daily to stay mentally sharp and physically strong.”
“To me, mindfulness means clarity.”
“My daily practice clears the gunk and distractions from my head and helps me to understand a situation from multiple angles and make more thoughtful decisions,” says Lee.
With MindFi, users can do short animated breathing exercises to relax the mind and body, go on audio-guided meditations, participate in coaching and assess their mental health with clinical-grade questionnaires with recommendations on improving your life. Lee likens MindFi to the ‘Netflix for Wellness’, with a growing library of “short 3-minute exercises, longer 10-day programs and 15-minute webinar episodes delivered by health and wellness coaches from all over the world.”
MindFi’s Advisory Council comprises of noted medical doctors, psychologists and neuroscientists in Asia and the United States. Dr Kua Ee Heok of NUS’ Department of Psychological Medicine and Professor Steve Hickman of University California San Diego guides our product and research strategy, alongside our in-house psychologist and chief wellbeing officer, Anita Sadasivan.