It’s been just over 100 days since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic.
As the world began the scramble to find tests, respirators, masks and vaccine candidates to address the physical crisis, we anticipated the emerging COVID-19 mental health crisis on the horizon.
Our small team urgently shifted our efforts to help people navigate the mental health burden that would inevitably accompany the pandemic.
We’re especially concerned about the mental health burden of COVID-19 among high risk populations including young adults, youth and underserved communities.
Experts Predict a Global Mental Health Crisis
The United Nations warns of a global mental health crisis during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Issues of systemic racism in America compound the crisis. In a recent USA Today story America is in turmoil, and a mental health crisis looms next, Jaime Diaz-Granados, acting chief scientific officer at the American Psychological Association reports “We are facing a culmination of crises unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes – in coronavirus, economic turmoil and racism.”
Many factors are contributing to the mental health burden in America and globally. The impact will be felt for years. They include loss of normalcy, economic distress, job loss, uncertainty about the future, social isolation, a sense of chronic threat, grieving lost lives and lost opportunities.
Anxiety, depression, and suicide prevalence will likely increase especially among high risk groups including young adults, youth and underserved communities. These groups often have least access to traditional resources and support.
Even before the pandemic, mental health was a major global problem. 284 million people around the world suffer with anxiety each year, 264 million from depression, and 800,000 complete suicide (Source: United for Global Mental Health: Return on the Individual).
Prevalence of anxiety, depression and suicide among U.S. young adults and teens is increasing at alarming rates over the past decade.
The mental health burdens associated with COVID-19 promise to accelerate these trends.
Our Response to the COVID-19 Mental Health Burden
At SuperBetter, we’re working to make the world a whole lot better.
We offer a popular science backed app that improves resilience, mental health and social-emotional learning. SuperBetter is regularly found on media lists of best apps for mental health & wellbeing alongside VC-backed leaders like Calm, Headspace & Talkspace.
We are happy to be in a position to continue to make our app available 100% for free through the at least the end of 2020.
When the pandemic was announced we found ourselves in a unique position to help. We shifted our focus right away.
We started by reminding our community how published studies show that playing SuperBetter can help reduce anxiety. In turn many used social media to recommend SuperBetter to friends and followers. App downloads surged right away as people sought resources to manage Coronavirus stress and anxiety.
Next, since the pandemic is new to all of us, we crowdsourced insights from our SuperBetter Community about the new stressors and challenges they anticipated as they began to self-quarantine.
Third, we introduced a ‘pandemic-edition’ of SuperBetter, adding new Power Packs for challenges related to COVID-19 and physical distancing. The Stay-At-Home Scavenger Hunt and Stay Strong in a Pandemic can be found in the Power Pack library of the apps or website.
Finally, we joined the conversation about the emerging COVID-19 mental health crisis, participating in COVID-19 wellbeing conferences and other events.
For example, our Chief Science Officer Jane McGonigal guest lectured at Punch Through Pandemics with Psychological Science a national online psychology course with thousands of students hosted by Oregon State University.
Jane was also featured at a COVID-19 Mental Health Conference hosted by the 92nd Street Y where she interviewed her equally amazing and brilliant twin sister Kelly McGonigal (their 15 minute segment starts at 2:16:30).
Our CEO Keith Wakeman was interviewed by PsyberGuide for an article about how SuperBetter can help during the pandemic.
When the pandemic was announced, our urgent goal was to help more people navigate these challenging times. The efforts were successful. For the month of May, SuperBetter app store downloads are up 60% vs. pre-pandemic levels and global app sessions are up 42%.
As more people look for virtual social support while physical distancing, the number of people joining the SuperBetter Official Community Group each week nearly doubled.
We’re grateful for Allies across the U.S. and around the world that recommend SuperBetter to those they serve.
These Allies are found across media, colleges & universities, K-12 schools, medical centers, counseling centers, local governments, youth-focused non-profits, mental health non-profits, and others.
Our proactive response to the COVID-19 mental health crisis contributed to a 3-fold increase in media stores featuring SuperBetter so far this year. You can find over 50 media stories from 2020 on the SuperBetter Press Page.
Because of its credibility and science, SuperBetter is recommended by more organizations than ever. Hundreds include SuperBetter on resource pages for COVID-19, mental health, health services, self-care, student success, career services and social-emotional learning.
We acknowledged many of these Allies in a #ShoutOut campaign on the SuperBetter Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages over the past two months.
We’re All in This Together
These are unusual and challenging times. The disruption of lives during the first 100 days of the COVID-19 is hard for nearly everyone. Nobody knows how long it will continue.
The world is just starting to see the effects of the global COVID-19 mental health crisis now following on the heels of the pandemic. The crises of economic turmoil and systemic racism are compounding the problem.
These are epic challenges. The world urgently needs more well-designed, science-backed tools in the toolkit, like SuperBetter, to help individuals and communities proactively build skills, empower peer-support and complement traditional care.
The SuperBetter team is committed to doing our part.
Stay safe and healthy. We appreciate you.
Your allies at SuperBetter