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Sir John Kirwan launches mental health app free for all Kiwis

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan is stepping up to support all Kiwis during the COVID-19 pandemic with a leading-edge mental wellbeing app which will be available for free for the duration of the crisis.

Mentemia - Italian for "my mind" - was created by long-time mental health advocate Kirwan, tech entrepreneur Adam Clark, and an expert team of medical advisors. It provides users with practical tips and techniques to help them take control of their mental health and wellbeing.

"The impact of COVID-19 has led to increased anxiety, uncertainty and additional stress in many peoples’ lives," says Kirwan.

"In the current climate people are looking to bring some balance back into their lives. Finding ways to maintain your normal routine as much as possible when it comes to sleep, nutrition and exercise is essential to reducing stress and anxiety."

Kirwan says Mentemia puts the ability to monitor, manage and improve mental wellbeing into the hands of all Kiwis.

"The app helps everybody, everyday. You don’t have to be struggling to get the benefits. It gives people a better understanding of the triggers that make them stressed or anxious, the little things they can do to improve their mental wellbeing, and what is really cool is it also helps you learn how to help others.

"I have a daily mental health plan. I do a few little things every day, and now I'm thriving. That’s where Mentemia comes in. It’s like having a personalised mental health coach in your pocket," he says.

Developed as an easy to use mobile app to help tackle stress and anxiety in the workplace, the free version of Mentemia has been specially adapted to help New Zealanders through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The free public roll out of the app has been made possible by a contribution from the Ministry of Health and is part of the government’s wider psychosocial response to COVID-19 and its ongoing significant investment in the mental health of New Zealanders. The partnership will also see Mentemia create mental wellbeing content and tools specifically designed to support front line health workers and government employees in essential services.

"It’s really important people know there are things we can all be doing to look after our mental wellbeing. To have a tool that gives you daily reminders of the small things you can do to help focus on what is in our control and what is manageable makes a big difference at a time like this," says Ministry of Health, Mental Health and Addiction Deputy Director-General Robyn Shearer.

The free availability of the app is supported by partners Kiwibank and Westpac, acknowledging how important mental wellbeing will be to help Kiwis through the Level 4 lockdown and beyond.

"This extended period of isolation and the unknown future could lead to more mental health issues. With huge support from the Prime Minister and the government, Steve Jurkovich and the team at Kiwibank and David McLean and his team at Westpac we wanted to make sure we were ahead of that in supporting all Kiwis," says Kirwan.

"Just like physical health and exercising, if you don’t pay attention to your body and look after yourself, your mental health can get out of shape too. Mentemia gives people user-friendly tools in the app to take action and enhance their mental wellbeing."

Mentemia was built using technology that improves its ability to respond to a person’s individual needs as it gets to know more about them over time.

Developed by technology, content and clinical experts the app has evidence-based tools that work to build and nurture greater wellbeing. These include a "Mood Tracker" to help identify what is affecting a person’s mood, and a "Breathing Tool" which has advice on breathing techniques and how these can be used to cope in stressful situations.

The app also provides daily suggestions of simple yet valuable things to try, such as how to relax your mind before going to sleep, and providing "Bite-sized brain science" which breaks down complex ideas into insights that are useful and easily understandable.

Health Psychology Expert, Dr Fiona Crichton, who is part of the development team, says the virus has made anxiety the new normal but there is no one way to deal with those feelings of uncertainty.

"It’s about finding out what works for you and tailoring your daily routine with new habits.

With Mentemia, we’ve designed a whole range of evidence-based content and ideas so Kiwis can find the things that work for them. These are often very simple things but the research shows they calm our stress response so we feel less stuck and more able to cope in these uncertain times."

Mentemia is available from the App Store or Google Play

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