MU students offered Sanvello for free as positive step toward improving mental health

Tools based in cognitive behavioral therapy available within the app Sanvello may help students with common mental health concerns as the stress of the semester peaks.

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Each semester, college students face growing responsibilities and obligations, leading them to feel stressed and overwhelmed. As a result, many schools have observed patterns of increasing depression and anxiety among students. MU is no exception, as they are constantly working to offer solutions. The latest tool being promoted by the Wellness Resource Center is the app Sanvello, a collection of techniques and methods designed to relieve early symptoms of common mental health issues.

“This app was designed as a clinical tool,” Dr. Christy Hutton, director of the WRC, said. “Regardless of whether somebody is just experiencing stress or whether they have long-standing or newly discovered anxiety, they can use this app at moments when they’re feeling the least able to manage things on their own.”

Previously known as Pacifica, the app has always been a favorite of Dr. Hutton’s. When the company recently began charging for its services, she worked to make the tool available to all MU students for free. Now, logging in with any MU system email grants users automatic premium access to the app.

The creators and supporters of Sanvello hope that the accessibility and flexibility of using the app will appeal to students. The app offers a variety of resources for users in different states of mental health, from simple mood tracking to extensive Guided Journeys.

According to the Sanvello website, “In collaboration with therapists, doctors and researchers, we are working to build the most effective behavioral health care solution in the world — and put it in the hands of everyone who needs it … Sanvello is rooted in widely-used and empirically-supported treatments for anxiety, depression, and stress.”

As the semester wraps up, many students experience elevated levels of these conditions. Deadlines, grades, self-image and homesickness are a few stressors that can begin to seriously affect their daily lives.

“If somebody already has something like anxiety or depression, and you add stress to that, it compounds everything,” Hutton said. “We’re hoping we can meet students where they are and give them what they’re needing in the moment when they’re needing it.”

Since its release to the MU system, Sanvello has become a valuable coping tool as the stress of midterms and finals weighs on students.

“When I downloaded Sanvello, I didn’t know what to expect,” junior Katie Cross said. “Even though it’s an app, it feels like someone cares and someone wants to know how you’re doing.”

With the increasing popularity of using online and mobile tools to combat problems, the WRC expects the app to catch on quickly across campus. However, this raises concerns of students assuming the app is a replacement for in-person professional help.

“If a student finds that the way that they’re thinking, or the way that they’re treating themselves or others, is getting in the way of meeting their goals, that’s a great time to reach out for support,” Hutton said. “I think it’s really important that we sit down together and have face-to-face conversations, particularly when we’re hurting.”

Alongside programs like habit tracking, meditations, goal setting and community discussions, Sanvello offers information to link users to professional help including hotlines. This is a way for users to differentiate between methods the app employs and help that is only available through in-person treatment.

“It’s probably just your first step,” Cross said. “I think if you’re having serious mental health issues, this might help you get your foot in the door.”

Hutton and her team are also developing programs for coming semesters that they hope will offer further relief from mental health struggles. Several workshops are planned, covering topics from getting the most out of Sanvello, to getting better sleep as a busy student.

Edited by Sophie Stephens | sstephens@themaneater.com

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