“Let’s say I’m preparing for a meeting and I’m feeling a bit anxious,” said Judith Law, the executive director at Anxiety Canada. “I just have to hit ‘Quick Relief,’ and I can do a two-minute guided visualization. And I’m feeling better.”
Launched on February 20, 2019, MindShift CBT is the follow-up to the hugely successful MindShift app, which has has been downloaded 700,000 times worldwide since launcing in 2012. MindShift CBT has been downloaded by more than 90,000 users since launch only two months ago with an average of 2,800 active users per day over the last month.
Originally Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, Anxiety Canada is one of seven organizations that make up the BC Partners for Mental Health and Substance Use Information. Stewarded by BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services with provincial funding, the mission of the BC Partners is to decrease stigma and increase literacy around mental health and substance use.
"We desperately need to address stigma related to mental health and substance use in British Columbia," said Lynn Pelletier, the VP of BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. "Knowing that the BC Partners have a vital role to play in this work, we recently revisited our partnership and determined that we are stronger as a team than we are as individual organizations. A lot has been done in terms of moving the conversation about mental health and substance use forward, but there is a long way to go. I look forward to what we're going to accomplish together with our revitalized partnership."
Anxiety disorders illustrate one example of the need to address stigma and lack of awareness. Although anxiety is the leading mental health issue in the country, people are reluctant to talk about it—at least, in terms of mental health.
“People would rather say, ‘I’m stressed,’” Law said. “But stressors cause anxiety.”
By using the term “anxiety” more often, we can help de-stigmatize the condition, she notes. “Although mental health is being talked about more, there is still a lot of work on that front. There’s lots of misinformation.”
Anxiety Canada consults with a volunteer scientific advisory committee that is made up of CBT expert researchers from across the country.
“CBT is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders and depression,” Law said. “ Although pharmacological treatment may be necessary in some cases, research shows that people being treated for anxiety disorders are less likely to relapse when treated with CBT. They tend to get better and stay better.”
The MindShift CBT app can be used as a self-help tool by people with mild to moderate anxiety. For those with severe anxiety, the app can complement CBT with a trained counsellor.
Both Mindshift CBT and its predecessor, Mindshift, are built on CBT principles. The original version was more of a resource tool to learn about anxiety. Mindshift CBT helps people more CBT techniques, such as setting goals, challenging unhealthy thinking, facing fears, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
“Let’s say you’re working with your daughter on her anxiety,” Law said. “Because it’s so user-journey friendly, she can do her check-in and rate her anxiety level. And she can enter her thoughts into the app. Then she can export and share the homework she’s done with her mother if she chooses, or with her therapist. Or she can share it with her GP to say, ‘Hey look, this is how I’ve been feeling over the last month, and this is why I need some help.’”
For Mindshift CBT, Anxiety Canada drew on feedback from users and researchers.
“We decided that, as much as we were proud of the original Mindshift app, it needed attention and love,” she said.
The organization was taken aback by the popularity of the original app. “We wanted to continue to have a free app, and one that was even more useful," Law said. "You create something that is based on what you know, and where you see that there is a gap, and a need. When you build it, you’re pretty sure they’ll come. It’s only when they use it and tell you what they want that you see how to make it better."
This is part one in our series on the BC Partners. Read more: