It's a hard fact to swallow - more and more teenagers are suffering from depression and anxiety in America. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services show that more than 2 million American teens report experiencing depression that impairs their daily function, while 6.3 million (30% of girls and 20% of boys) have had an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Researchers believe those numbers have been gradually increasing since the 1930s, with rates of anxiety and depression among teens in the U.S may be as much as 8 times higher than they were 50 years ago.

To be honest, it isn't that shocking. Social media is making us anxious and depressed and ruining our self-esteem. Researchers are coming to the conclusion that smartphones may have destroyed a generation. Articles upon articles are emerging confirming our doom and gloom predicament regarding the relationship between technology and our mental health. 

However, even though we are now questioning the effects of technology on our mental health, technology has also produced some great apps to help us understand, manage and get through the toughest periods of our life. From relaxing games to meditation, online therapy, CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) apps, developers have answered society's call - they're also here to help.

This week is Mental Health Awareness week so we've decided to compile a list of the best apps to help you best understand yourself. These aren't therapy but might help you get through the day-to-day struggles.

All these games are available on mobile in the App Store and Google Play.

1. MindLight by GainPlay Studio

MindLight is a serious game with a horror survival theme, made especially for kids who suffer from anxiety disorders. It's immersive training ground that uses evidence-based therapeutic practices to teach children to overcome their fears. But it's also fun, designed to bring out the intrinsic curiosity of children. Made in close collaboration with the PlayNice Institute and Radboud University professors Isabela Granic and Rutger Engels, this game has been awarded many prizes for it's creative approach to children's anxiety.

2. Aloe Bud 

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They're the adorable self-care app you've been waiting for and yes it's honestly really cute. Born out of Kickstarter, this app is simple to use - no sign ups, email or phone number and launches you right to the simple screen where you tap icons like 'hydrate,' 'breathe' or 'motivate' to set up when and how you want to be reminded. It's free to use but there is an expansion pack which includes different versions of reminders. I repeat: it's really cute with it's little pixilated icons.

3. Alto's Odyssey

This stunningly beautiful game is the most relaxing thing I own. Yes, I have multiple apps that remind me to breathe or prompt me to take 10 mins of meditation (shout out to Headspace!) but there is nothing more relaxing than playing Alto's Odyssey.  It's textured, poetic, lush, vibrant, dramatic, engrossing and have I sold you on it yet? Just do yourself a favour and download it already.

4. The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne

Choose the oatmeal. This is the story of a young painfully introverted college student who needs to make oatmeal in the kitchen of her college dorm. Focusing on social anxiety, this game takes you on a journey into Samantha's struggle to make oatmeal. Thoughtful, beautiful and sensitive, this game really hits home for anyone who has struggled engaging with strangers. Honestly, the trailer nearly made me cry.  

5. That Dragon, Cancer

I was uncertain whether to put this game on the list but decided in the end that it was important. This game isn't your self-care app but will teach you more about empathy, grief, sadness, depression, the hardest part of your life and will definitely make you cry. It'll show you a journey of a family's harrowing experience and you'll come out on the other side changed. It's a masterpiece. 

It's been a couple of years since I first heard about this game on the podcast Reply All and I think about it all the time. This game is simply heart breaking. It tells the harrowing story of Ryan Green and his wife's, Amy Green's, battle to save their child, Joel, from a brain tumour. The problem is that you already know how the story ends - the Joel dies. The game has been written up by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Wired.  A documentary about the game, Thank You For Playing, screened at Tribeca in 2016. That Dragon, Cancer is an amazing work of art,” says prominent game theorist Raph Koster. “In some ways, I’m glad that games were there for Ryan, because it sounds to me like the kind of questions that he is wrestling with, games are the right medium to wrestle with them in.” 


This week Itavio will be covering Mental Health Awareness Week. Stay tuned for more coverage on how games can help mental health.

Last week we covered Mother's Day. Did you miss our article on a Mother's Guide to Life Saving Apps? We've got you sorted.

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About The Author: Caroline Corbett-Thompson

Caroline is the Marketing Director at Itavio. You'll find her listening to NPR and scowling 99% of the time.

More posts by Caroline Corbett-Thompson

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