12 August 2019

Teen mental health charity develops app to help young people manage anxiety

Timely and appropriate help is essential for managing the mental health of young people, with one in eight 5-19 year olds having at least one mental health condition according to NHS Digital[1]

One innovator who is working to help children and adolescents to manage their mental health is Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Nihara Krause. She has worked with children and teenagers for nearly 30 years and founded teen mental health charity stem4, which focuses on early awareness and intervention in schools and college. 

Designed with teenagers in mind

Following the success of stem4's first Calm Harm, which was previously shortlisted for the AXA Health Tech & You Awards in 2017, Nihara went on to launch a new app to help teenagers manage anxiety - Clear Fear. Shortlisted again for the AXA Health Tech & You Awards, Dr Krause tells us about the inspiration behind clear fear and the experience young people have using it.

To begin research towards the development of clear fear, stem4 initially launched a survey of over 200 students, who requested an app for anxiety as their first choice. 

Clear Fear was designed to be used alongside ongoing treatment, rather than acting as a replacement. The app uses a Cognitive Behavioural framework to help change anxious thoughts and emotions, alter anxious behaviours and calm fear responses. 

Equipping emotional resilience

Clear Fear offers a selection of tasks, based on CBT and other evidence-based approaches that have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety. This includes learning how to substitute negative emotions for positive ones and understanding how anxiety works. 

Other features include a 'Grit Box' - based on the concept that 'grit' is a necessary factor in resilience; the box contains a range of motivational statements, positive quotes and information on resilient and inspirational people, which is all generated by young people. 

The 'Worry Box' feature provides a virtual containment of anxiety for the user, whilst the 'Worry Ladder' helps the user prioritise anxieties together with problem-solving.  

The app is completely private and password protected – it has been designed with young people to ensure data and device memory/data use in their smartphone is not compromised. 

Calming anxiety on-the-go

Eliza*, who is 15 and lives in London, has experienced anxiety for three years since starting secondary school. She uses the Clear Fear app at least once a day, sometimes more, especially when she is on her way to school and back.  

“Mondays are usually when I feel the worst,” says Eliza. “The app is really helpful for when I have worried thoughts about people not liking me, both at home or when I have to leave the house.” 

Eliza likes using the different features of the app; including the Safety Net which shows you what you can do during an anxiety attack and lets you add your own trusted list of contacts, such as parents, friends and your GP, so you have somebody to talk to. 

“The breathing guidance on the app also really helps to calm my anxiety and the animated gifs are funny and take my mind off feeling anxious. What I use depends on my time and how I feel.

“I really like that I can remind myself of what I can do and think to help keep my anxiety in the ‘box’. It really helps when I feel worried or panicked or alone.”

Being an AXA Health Tech & You Awards finalist

When asked how she felt about being selected as a finalist of the AXA Health Tech & You Mental Health in Children Challenge, Dr Krause said: “Being selected as a finalist for the AXA Health Tech & You Awards means a huge amount to a small charity such as stem4, in terms of being acknowledged for the valuable work we do to improve young people’s mental health by providing early awareness and early intervention. 

ClearFear, Morning Networking.jpg

“The opportunity to link with other finalists, the useful talks at the launch event, the focus on high quality, data driven, clinically validated tech tools and the opportunity to network are all really helpful for finalists

*Please note to protect privacy this is not her real name.