Free mental health apps provide 24/7 help for teens and young children across California

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Saturday, May 11, 2024
Free mental health apps provide 24/7 help for teens, young kids
Soluna and BrightLife Kids are two apps that aim to provide mental health help for teens and young children.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- May is Mental Health Awareness month, and young people are in a mental health crisis.

The CDC says one in three high school girls have seriously considered taking their own life and 41% of young people with anxiety go untreated.

Two apps now available across California provide 24/7 access to care for free, hoping to keep daily stress from becoming much more.

"Really what we're doing with these apps through the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative is trying to get access to care in kids' hands - where they need it, when they need it and meeting kids literally where they're at," explained Autumn Boylan, the deputy director for California Department of Health Care Services - Office of Strategic Partnerships.

DHCS released two platforms in January. Soluna is indented for young people between 13-25 and BrightLife Kids is designed for young children and parents like Kimberly Voorhis to use together.

"It's given me a really cool opportunity to kind of model for my kids the importance of taking care of their mental health," Voorhis said.

Families with multiple children like Voorhis know each child is unique in their own way and have specific needs. BrightLife Kids offers age-tailored videos and podcasts for the children, but also access to behavioral health coaches.

"It's just really encouraging to have somebody on your team who can help break that down for you and give you a place to talk about your journey of parenting in a way that really leaves you feeling empowered and equipped to help continue to lead your family," Voorhis pointed out.

Soluna users are anonymous and receive self-guided support through interactive content, community forums and also chat-based, one-on-one coaching.

"There's this whole section...this whole population that's dealing with day-to-day stress, and they don't always have the tools and the resources and know how to deal with that, so that's what Soluna offers them. All of these really kind of fun interactive ways to be educated and empowered and more resilient about your own mental health," said Dr. Beth Pausic, the VP of Clinical Excellence at Kooth Digital Health.

Parents might be anxious about a child finding mental health guidance through an anonymous online forum, but these apps teach coping skills for everyday problems we all face and both include links to crisis support if needed.

"There are not nearly enough child psychiatrists in the state to meet the demand, and what we've provided through these apps is an option and a place where young people and parents and caregivers can turn to get started on that health and wellness journey," Boylan said.

Dr. Pausic added: "We assess any risk on the site... we will reach out to the service user with resources and in cases where the risk is a little bit more urgent, we will engage with them and we will refer them to external resources when appropriate."

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.