As a mental health clinician supporting children and youth throughout the pandemic, I have noticed the significant toll that lockdown measures, virtual learning, and social distancing practices have taken on youth these past several months. To further support youth during this time (these resources are adult-friendly too!), I have compiled a summary of free mental health resources that may provide useful skills, support, and education (however, I must note that these resources do not replace support from a regulated mental health professional, or health care professional, but rather, are meant to add to one’s existing toolkit):
Woebot is a robot trained in CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) with whom individuals can speak regularly (using a virtual chat function). Woebot asks what you’re feeling and thinking, helps you identify patterns in your thinking, and then teaches evidence-based strategies and tools that have been shown improve mood and well-being with practice.
BounceBack is an online self-help program, designed back CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association). The program provides telephone coaching, skill-teaching videos, and workbooks that teach individuals 15+ practical strategies to improve their mental health. Folks can opt for the telephone coaching, or just work through the videos at their own pace to learn coping skills.
Mindfulness for Teens
This website offers mindfulness resources for teens, videos of teens’ experiences with mindfulness, guided meditations, blog posts, frequently asked questions about mindfulness, and the rationale behind mindful practices. The creator, Dr. Dzung Vo is a researcher and pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at BC Children’s Hospital. On the site, Dr. Vo also describes his esteemed book, ‘The Mindful Teen’, which provides teens with tools to cope with stress. Furthermore, Dr. Vo facilitates Facebook and Twitter accounts addressing teen mindfulness.
This application, created by BC Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Vo and Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, offers engaging ways for youth to engage in mindfulness practice using their phones. This app is marketed for youth beginning a mindfulness practice, as there are opportunities for youth to follow introductory guided meditations (body scan, walking meditation, mindful eating, etc.), quick exercises (grounding), and everyday mindfulness practices (listening to the environment, journaling, mindful music). In addition, there are opportunities for youth to learn about the science and benefits behind mindfulness. This app is portable and youth can create custom meditations that fit their personality.
This app is predominately created for youth managing anxiety, through collaboration between Anxiety Canada and BC Children’s Hospital. In addition to providing educational and interactive tools to cope with anxiety, the app includes a section on ‘chill out tools’, which help ‘dial down’ anxiety and stress. These tools include guided ‘tense and release’ exercises, visualizations, mindful and calm breathing, and body scans. Youth are encouraged to try them all and are able to ‘star’ the activities they like best. This app is portable, offers ‘quick tips’ to support youth when feeling overwhelmed, and appears to be helpful for youth specifically struggling with anxiety in various settings (work, school, social settings).
Cosmic Kids is a web series of mindfulness videos to introduce children (ages 3+) to yoga and meditation. Jaime is a certified yoga teacher who creates videos to share mindfulness-themed stories using popular culture references, fun characters, and colourful backdrops. Videos explain how thoughts and feelings work, offer guided meditations, as well as provide helpful activities like ‘brain breaks’ and ‘peace out’ guided relaxations. Jaime’s website also offers a blog with educational resources, mindful parenting strategies, and opportunities to become a trained yoga teacher for kids. Jaime creates engaging videos using simple, accessible language to explain mindfulness that can be used in classroom settings or private practice.
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5uIZ2KOZZeQDQo_Gsi_qbQ
Smiling Mind App
Led by CEO Dr. Addie Wooten, an Australian psychologist and academic, this free application compiles knowledge from a team of mental health professionals to offer beginning mindfulness exercises for all ages. Smiling Mind offers many programs specifically for youth, with animated mindfulness lessons and guided mindful activities and meditations for different age ranges. Activities are broken into themes (i.e. mindful eating, awareness and sound, mindful movement, exploring emotions, acts of kindness, etc.) and address themes that are relevant to specific age ranges. For example, the program for 16-18 year olds is designed to support teenagers as they plan for the future. Users are able to track their progress, as well as track their mood while using the app.