COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado teens have a new tool to help them deal with their mental health.
The Colorado Education Initiative and Grit Digital Health have partnered to launch the smartphone application "Nod."
Eight school districts across the state will be rolling out the app this semester. It combats loneliness by helping kids take steps to practice interactions and build relationships.
“Loneliness is an urgent challenge, heightened by COVID-19, negatively impacting teens and putting them a higher risk for mental health issues from anxiety and depression to self-harm and suicidal ideation,” said CEI President and CEO Rebecca Holmes. “CEI is keenly interested in strategies and activities that build student social connection and prevent loneliness and depression, especially for students who are most struggling. With additional emphasis surrounding COVID’s impact on student connectedness and mental health, it has never been more important to support this work.”
"I'm in an alternative education campus, and a lot of my students struggle with social cues and getting support for that," said Cassandra Berry, Principal of Eastlake High School.
Berry says these struggles were only worsened by the pandemic.
"They realized that interaction, even with teachers, was extremely important," said Berry.
Motivating Berry to sign her charter school up for the pilot program.
"The biggest benefit for my students is that there is no expectation of doing something. They can use it when they need, and go from where they left off," said Berry.
Nod works in three ways: It gives kids the skills to build meaningful relationships, provides in-app exercises to help them deal with their emotions, and shares stories of resilience.
"Students expect relationships to happen effortless, but we know like everything else, whether its a romantic or family relationship, it takes time and conservative effort to get that outcome," said Nathaan Demers, Clinical Psychologist.
He hopes the app helps kids avoid depression and suicidal thoughts.
"This is a population health approach so we can say if can address this precursor to a lot of these feelings, that can help a lot of the students so they don't need clinical services down the road," said Demers.
"My hope is the pilot program is short-lived, and it becomes a full blown program, sooner rather than later," said Berry.
For schools or districts interested in the pilot program, visit this website.