App Teaches Healthy Thinking Skills for Mental Health


By Sara Piracha

A Must-Download for Students


Stress can take a toll on a student’s mind, weighing them down, and sometimes even,making them sick.

Young people today face many pressures. In 2011, the Toronto Star drew attention to a 2009 survey of six Ontario campuses which showed 53 per cent of post-secondary students felt overwhelmed by anxiety, 54 percent felt hopeless and more than a third said they felt so depressed it was difficult to function.

Exactly a year ago, W5 reporter Tom Kennedy reported mental health had become of significant concern on the campuses of Canadian Universities.

Rising tuition costs, school assignments, part-time jobs, relationships, and social media, these are but a few of the pressure points young people must learn to manage. Add to that, the family and cultural expectations that come with being a first or second generation South Asian Canadian. As Sanober Bukhari wrote in her Masalamommas article entitled, ‘Report Cards: Pressure on Kids vs. Parents’, “We desis are obsessed with evaluation. Not just with how well we do in school or in our jobs but how we are doing compared to others.” This innate competitiveness, passed down by my father, has served me well. But, I have spent the last 41 years looking for and developing coping mechanisms for the stress that accompanies it.

That’s what HealthyMinds is all about. HealthyMinds is a problem-solving tool designed to help deal with emotions and cope with the stresses encountered both on and off campus. The goal: Keeping the mind healthy.

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HealthyMinds was developed by The Royal, one of Canada’s foremost mental health care and academic health sciences centres. Thanks to a donation by D.I.F.D. – an organization created by friends and family of 14-year-old Daron Richardson, who died by suicide in 2010 – the Royal developed the app in response to requests by students who were looking for ways to cope with day-to-day pressures.

HealthyMinds offers a daily mood tracker to help stay mindful of emotions, as well as a journaling feature with photo entry capability. A problem-solving tool linked to iCalendar guides users through the step-by-step process of identifying, reframing and developing a plan to address life’s challenges. The process was developed based on a problem solving approach used in mental health treatment. The app also provides coping and stress buster strategies, information on mind and body, and a video breathing exercise to help calm the mind.

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While designed for post-secondary students, high school students could also benefit from its use. Personally, I have found the


Mood option a great way to spark a discussion with my son who is in elementary school. Just this morning, when the app asked how he was feeling, he selected happy. When the app asked that he write down what made him feel this way, he said, “Because I have a good family.”

In case anyone is interested, today I feel relaxed.

Learn more about this app on the website:



More about Sara Piracha

Sara Piracha, editorial board member

Sara Piracha, editorial board member

I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a community volunteer. That’s not an exhausted list, of course. There are many ways that women choose to manage these roles.

When I’m not picking up toys, making dinner, advising my little brother and trying to get in a workout, I am a development consultant with over 20 years experience in the nonprofit and corporate sectors. Intrigued? Please feel free to follow me on Twitter (@SaraMari) or LinkedIn. Or check out my bio at

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