Digital supports for mental health and emotional wellbeing

Dr Kevin Dyer, psychology lead for Health and Social Care Trauma Network, HSCB

Stress control infographic

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on us all. The daily challenges we face can lead to stress and other difficult emotions.

Consequently, it has never been more important to ensure that people are encouraged to take care of their emotional and physical wellbeing.

Experiencing emotional distress during a widespread international crisis is a normal reaction. However, as a direct result of the pandemic, many of the traditional supports we use to manage our wellbeing - family contact, socialising and exercise - have been significantly weakened.

That is why it is important that we look for new avenues of support such as digital health solutions which remain accessible during COVID-19 restrictions.

Incorporating supports such as Apps, webinars, and online stress control classes into our daily self-care routine will help us in these challenging times. One of the most impactful digital solutions to be unveiled recently has been the Health and Wellbeing Apps Library.

Developed by NI Health and Social Care organisations, in collaboration with ORCHA (Organisation for Review of Care and Health Apps), the library contains Apps that have been rigorously reviewed to ensure they are safe, secure, and effective in assisting people with their wellbeing.

This form of evaluative benchmarking provided by ORCHA is important in this emerging field of self-help.

Further information and guidance on training and services for mental health and emotional wellbeing are hosted on the Minding Your Head website -

The Minding Your Head website is also host to the new virtual COVID Wellbeing NI hub which promotes positive mental health during COVID-19 and draws together information, self-help guides and ways to find support on a range of mental health and wellbeing issues including the ‘Take 5 steps to Wellbeing’, which outlines basic steps we can all take to maintain and improve wellbeing.  These are Be Active, Learn, Connect, Give and Take Notice.

I’d also like to highlight two other initiatives that have embraced new approaches to supporting mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic.

Stress Control is a six-week, low intensity, self-help course aimed at people experiencing mild-to-moderate anxiety, depression, or stress. Stress Control classes have been funded in all HSC Trusts by the Public Health Agency since 2016.

Traditionally delivered in a class format, the creator Dr Jim White has moved on-line and has delivered two courses via YouTube.

The initial courses promoted by both the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the Public Health Agency (PHA) were hugely successful with approximately 6,000 people taking part and 98% of attendees reporting that the course provided skills to help them manage their stress.

An enhanced roll-out of the free online Stress Control programme is available every month through to December 2020. There is no need to register or log in. Participants can simply follow the links to the next set of classes by visiting:

People working and volunteering in the community have also been provided with access to a short E-Learning module on Psychological First Aid.

Learning psychological first aid skills empowers helpers to help others. The material can be accessed at any time:

I have only touched upon some recent examples but we all need to play our part by encouraging friends, family, colleagues and clients to investigate the myriad of digital and online supports that are available particularly as the impact of COVID-19 becomes ever more apparent.

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 and speak to a counsellor immediately.  Calls to Lifeline are free from NI Landlines and mobiles.

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