New mindfulness app mobilizes mental health and wellness for youth

THE simple act of taking a few deep breaths between classes, before the big game or while studying for a final exam can reduce stress, maintain focus and contribute to overall mental wellness of youth. And now, BC Children’s Hospital has an app for that.
The Breathr Mindfulness App, available for download in Google Play and the App Store on Android and iOS, is designed to help youth tackle every day stresses in their lives through practicing mindfulness. The app is also a tool that can help prevent mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety from developing or escalating. Breathr was developed in collaboration with BC Children’s Hospital medical professionals, mindfulness experts and youth, making it an informed and evidence-based resource.
“We all experience challenges in our lives like stress, pain and depression. Mindfulness can give youth the resilience to rise above those challenges and live life more fully,” said Dr. Dzung Vo, adolescent mental health specialist with BC Children’s Hospital. “We recommend and practice mindfulness on a regular basis with patients at BC Children’s, and we see the impact it has not only on their mental health, but their overall health and wellbeing.”
Research shows that practicing mindfulness can further develop the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with awareness, concentration, planning and decision-making. Those who practice mindfulness regularly can further develop this part of the brain, resulting in improved memory. Regular mindfulness practice is also linked to boosting moods in youth through disconnecting your brain from its stress centre. This can increase positive emotions and reduce negativity and stress.
The increasing trend of digitizing health care, and increasing health care accessibility to the tech-savvy generations, inpired BC Children’s Health Literacy team to develop an easy and fun way for youth to improve their mental wellness. The app provides youth with mental health support that’s flexible, fits in with their busy lifestyles and also deals with the issues around stigma. Users can learn the science behind mindfulness, and practice breathing, meditation and body scan exercises in a matter of minutes, anytime, anywhere, in their busy days.
“I found mindfulness to be one of the most valuable tools to maintain my personal wellness and cope with the symptoms of anxiety and depression when they would come up,” said Paul Irving, who struggled with anxiety and depression and was involved in the development of the Breathr app. “I believe that making mindfulness easy and accessible to youth – through platforms such as Breathr – will allow more young people to discover the benefits mindfulness can have in their day-to-day lives like I have.”
Funding for the development of the app was provided through the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation by the Canucks for Kids Fund and the RBC Provincial Child & Youth Healthy Living Initiative fund.

Quick Facts:

* Nearly 13 per cent of children and youth aged 4-17 years (approximately 84,000) in BC experience clinically significant mental disorders at any given time (that is three-to-four children in a classroom of 30)
* More than 16,000 visits to BC Children’s Hospital were made by children and youth with existing and emerging mental health problems
* 1,063 children and youth sought treatment for psychiatric issues through the hospital
* 325 children and youth were admitted to inpatient units at the hospital
* More than 244,000 parents and families visited the BC Children’s Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre website to access resources and information this past year