I am very fortunate that I get to walk to work daily (okay, except on really rainy days, then maybe I’m not so fortunate!) and I am obsessed with listening to podcasts on my journey. On my walk in this morning I stumbled across a podcast episode from Ctrl Alt Delete with Emma Gannon who was talking with Dr Megan Jones Bell, the Chief Science Officer at Headspace.
Headspace, in case you haven’t heard of it, is an app that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing through the practice of mindfulness. The app takes users through guided meditations and shares techniques in dealing with, for example, a busy, overthinking/negative-thinking, mind – a state that can impact on sleep, performance and relationships, which of course can in turn lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression… basically all of the things preventing you from being your best self!
Dr Megan Jones Bell was, interestingly, talking about how businesses are buying into meditation apps such as Headspace for their employees, because employers are starting to recognise the value of nurturing a sense of positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Listening to this got me to thinking about our students and colleagues University-wide, as I have recently been working closely with personal tutors and support services at the University. Through these encounters I have heard first hand how mental health issues are a real concern, and they appear to be on the rise. I’m sure this is not just an issue within our institution.
Our University freely provides staff and students with software licenses and accounts, such as Lynda.com, for free online training to develop our academic and professional skills. However, knowing what we know about the current situation regarding mental health and wellbeing, I wonder whether we are doing enough in this area? Is it time for Portsmouth and other institutions to invest more in access to products such as Headspace (and other apps are available – I’m using this just as an example), which encourage self-care and have a more preventative approach to mental health and wellbeing? In other words, should employers be helping to embed practices such as mindfulness and meditation, potentially via apps, into people’s daily lives so that we are all armed with tools to deal with difficult and challenging experiences when they arise? Surely this can only be a good thing for staff and students? What are your thoughts?
Note: I am by no means forgetting that mental health and wellbeing is a very complex subject and that apps alone cannot ‘fix’ things in times of crisis! If you or a student are experiencing any mental health issues please seek support from either Occupational Health or refer students to the Student Wellbeing Service.
Brown, D. & Triggle, N. (4 December, 2018). BBC News. Mental health: 10 charts on the scale of the problem. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41125009
Economides, M., Martman, J., Bell, M.J. & Sanderson, B. (2008). Improvements in Stress, Affect, and Irritability Following Brief Use of a Mindfulness-based Smartphone App: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-018-0905-4
Mental health and wellbeing apps:
Emma Gannon (2019). Ctrl Alt Delete. #189: Dr Megan Jones-Bell: How To Invest In Yourself (California Innovation Tour #2). 3, April. Available at: https://play.acast.com/s/ctrlaltdelete/-189-drmeganjones-bell-howtoinvestinyourself-californiainnovationtour-2-