I have frequently written in this blog about new online self-help programs and smartphone apps. The proliferation of these programs is in part due to an increased interest in providing mental health supports for youth and young adults. As you may be aware youth are the single largest group of Canadians who face mental health challenges (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2011). 75% of mental illnesses have their onset before the age of 25 and 20% of Canadians (ages 15‐24) reported a mental illness or substance abuse problem. The earlier we are able to intervene and provide youth and young adults with help, information, tools and strategies the better.
One self-help program that aims to do just that is Breathing Room. This program, authored by the Canadian Institute of Natural and Integrative Medicine (CINIM), won the 2014 True Imagination Award, awarded by Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction.
Breathing Room is an “online program for youth ages 13 – 24 who want to learn new ways to manage symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression”. CINIM says their program empowers youth by giving them new perspectives and practical strategies. The website has ideas, videos, activities and true life stories. It is quite accessible and would be useful for a wide range of needs.
The program includes 8 modules and each module is estimated to take between 2 – 3 hours to complete. Participants are encouraged to break this down into 20 -30 minutes segments/day. As part of the program participants are encouraged to select one new strategy or activity to try over the week. The idea is for them to use this new strategy daily or, as they say in the introductory video, at least 3 times/week. Breaking it up this way seems to me to be quite manageable.
There are extras such as music that fits with the modules and a listing of movies and books. What an excellent way to extend the learning beyond the parameters of the program.
The foundational principles for this program are supported by literature. CINIM did a pilot study and they found a significant reduction in depression severity as well as the improved quality of life continued over time. I like that youth and young adults were involved in the design of the website as well as serving as a test group for the material.
Currently the Breathing Room website is only available to Mount Royal University students, faculty and staff though you can purchase it for your organization or group.
In the past few weeks the Breathing room has released an app for individual use. The app has the full program and is quite visually appealing. It is a little pricey though – $22.99.
Overall I am impressed with the quality and the research that has gone into the development of this program. And I like the tagline – ‘breathing room – because everyone needs some’.
Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA