Men's mental fitness gets a workout
An online tool for young men aims to promote their mental health and fitness, writes MICHELLE McDONAGH
A NEW ONLINE training tool being launched today aims to improve the mental fitness of young Irish men and to encourage this often hard-to-reach group to seek help.
The Work Out app, which is free to access, is based around a series of brief online interventions called missions, using the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Users are invited to test their mental fitness before carrying out the interventions which target aspects of their thinking such as confidence, practicality, control and their ability to handle pressure.
In order to reach out to young men, Inspire Ireland was recently asked by the Men’s Health Forum Ireland to develop an online intervention to promote mental health and encourage help-seeking.
The result was the Work Out app which has been supported by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention and the Institute of Public Health as part of an all-island suicide-prevention initiative. The online tool is modelled on an application originally developed by the Inspire Foundation in Australia.
Derek Chambers, director of programmes with the Inspire Foundation, explains: “We were asked to deliver an innovative suicide-prevention initiative targeting young men who, as we know, have the highest suicide rate in Ireland and are very slow to present to the support services.
“The Work Out app is geared at promoting mental health and fitness in a way that’s not off-putting to men and will engage as many as possible without intimidating them.”
The app addresses four areas: Being Practical; Building Confidence; Taking Control; and Team Player. There are two missions for each area which require the user to make relatively minor changes in behaviour and/or thinking with a view to improving the way they feel and the way they respond to challenges or solve problems.
Chambers says: “All of the interventions or missions in Work Out Ireland have been developed with the user-journey in mind, making every effort to keep users online and minimising offline activity. For example, a sleep plan is generated for each user in the Body-clocking mission by selecting proposed sleep and wake times from a drop-down menu.
“Similarly, users can report their actual sleep and wake times on a daily basis online before taking the post-mission test to determine any improvement. Users receive email reminders to re-take the test one week after accepting this mission. Some missions require offline activity, eg Take a Breather requires users to practise breathing exercises.”
The Enjoy Yourself mission asks users to list online the things they actually enjoy doing and try to do as many as possible over the period of a week while the My Strengths mission requires young men to list their strengths and skills with the aim of building their confidence.
Following completion of the overall test and each post-mission test, a range of possible responses are generated for the user, depending on their score.
If the test response shows that a user seems to be under pressure, they may be advised to talk to somebody about how they feel or be directed to a relevant page on the Reachout.comwebsite to help them take the next step and figure out who to talk to.
Run by the Inspire Ireland Foundation, Reachout.comis a site which provides mental health information to young people and inspiring real life stories to help them get through tough times.
“The Work Out application is built around a series of previously validated psychometric scales so we will be able to tell if the user has improved in terms of his/her sense of control, personal confidence, self-esteem, etc.
“It also has the advantage of being integrated with Reachout.comso if the user is not improving after taking the interventions, they will be directed to information in whatever area they need support,” explains Chambers.
To do the Work Out test or for more information, go to workoutapp.ie