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World Mental Health Day - Free mental health app, My Possible Self, is helping people across the globe

  • Soaring popularity of self-care app which has been described as like having a ‘therapist in your pocket’
  • User numbers rising in the United States, Canada and Europe
  • ‘My Possible Self’ app is free

A free mental health app that helps people suffering from anxiety or depression transform their negative thoughts into positive ones is proving popular around the world, radically extending the number of those who have access to Priory’s mental health expertise.

The self-care app, My Possible Self, has been praised by users as “super helpful”, and employs sympathetic animated characters to encourage users to “reframe” their reactions to situations that might induce stress, anxiety or depression.

My Possible Self, which is based in Harrogate in Yorkshire, was founded by Joanne Wilkinson in 2009. Jo’s business initially offered a range of face-to-face services but in 2016 she recruited her daughters, Hana and Fleur, to develop the app. Three years later, it was commissioned by the NHS.

Speaking ahead of World Mental Health Day (Sunday October 10, 2021), Ms Wilkinson said: “As a family-owned company, we are committed to bringing people the best mental health support. We have developed the most innovative tools available to help manage and improve wellbeing when you need a helping hand at home and at work.

“With all of us facing prolonged uncertainty about our health, loved ones and work, and social isolation, it is no wonder we are seeing a rise in stress and anxiety. That’s why we have made My Possible Self available across the world to help as many people as we possibly can.”

The app draws on the professional advice and experience of the Priory Group’s world-leading consultants, and encourages users to track their emotions so they become aware of what activities, people and places affect their moods - and learn to consciously promote positive thoughts and actions over negative ones.

This technique - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - is widely used by doctors to help patients combat depression, and is the basis of the app’s practical exercises which also explore how a user’s diet, exercise and sleep regime affects their mental health.

The app includes: toolkits to monitor progress; visual and audio exercises to help boost mood and relax the mind and promote sleep; journals to record worries and emotions and actions ‘in the moment’; and motivational messages and tips for encouragement.

My Positive Self is proving popular with users in the US, Canada and Europe, and users are praising it as “excellent” and “super helpful if you’re actively looking to improve your mental health”.

Joe McEvoy, director of innovation and digital at the Priory Group, said: “We are seeing a significant rise in the number of new users of My Possible Self with 12,000 new sign-ups in August and nearly 600,000 interactions since April. The app has 125,000 registered users.”

Use in the United States is surging; the app has also been downloaded in Germany, Canada, Australia, France, Poland and India among other countries.

“The concept of My Possible Self is so simple – it IS like having a Priory therapist in your pocket. Users say they find it convenient and valuable in terms of self-care and ‘checking in’ on their mental health,” said Mr McEvoy.

“They are learning the techniques and methods to manage anxiety, stress and depression that our Priory consultants and psychotherapists use in therapy groups and one-to-one sessions at our hospitals and Wellbeing Centres in the UK. The app allows people who are having issues with their mental health but cannot access face to face therapy to obtain a wealth of resources online that have been clinically certified by Priory experts.

“Those who download the app can tap into help whenever and wherever they want – particularly beneficial during the pandemic.”

The Priory Group is the UK’s leading independent mental health provider, treating around 30,000 people a year for a wide range of mental health conditions. My Possible Self is free to download and is listed on the NHS Apps Library, demonstrating that it meets official NHS technical, clinical and safety standards.

Many users have found the app particularly useful during the pandemic. The app promotes free access to mental health services regardless of whether people live in a city or rural area. Covid-19 has been associated with a substantial amount of distress experienced by people both with and without a mental health diagnosis but with limited access in some cases to mental health services.

More on how it works:

CBT

The app uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which can help users make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. In CBT, problems are broken down into five main areas – situations, thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions.

Tools users can use every day

The app helps users learn to reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts; track activities they enjoy; identify areas causing anxiety, and become aware of the thinking traps they fall into; get insights to help them understand themselves better, and do more of the things they like.

Make small behavioural changes

There’s scientific evidence that the toolkits actually work. The more time a person spends using them, the better the results will be.

Take a moment

Helps calm busy minds with relaxation exercises, guided meditations, and yoga, massage and grounding exercises. Helps with good sleeping habits to improve wellbeing.

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