A smartphone app that was co-designed by students during pandemic lockdowns has been made available to staff and students at Monash University.
The Monash Thrive app encourages users to check in daily via a customisable character to be more aware of how they’re feeling day to day, helping them to identify if they are struggling. Users can see trends in their mood, and access resources on many aspects of wellbeing, such as dealing with stress, mindfulness and breathing exercises, sleep, and promotion of when and how students and staff can seek help.
The app was developed by Thrive researchers at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health in response to challenges and needs reported by students during the lockdowns.
Turner Institute Director and Thrive co-lead Professor Kim Cornish said the app was unique in Australia because it was developed as a not-for-profit resource, built entirely in-house at Monash University and recorded no student data.
“There are hundreds of mental health apps available via app stores, and unfortunately, many share private health information with third parties without disclosing it,” Cornish said.
“We don’t. Thrive has been developed by a mental health research-trained lab, for the community good, with privacy, co-design and evidence-based research baked into the development from day one — and it’s free for all users.”
Thrive co-lead and lead researcher Melinda McCabe said the intensive design phase was led by two clinical trial-type studies, one with over 60 students and another with over 150 students. The overwhelmingly positive findings were accompanied by requests for fun and interactive mindfulness, journalling and procrastination-fighting tools.
“The main goal of the app is to help students become more aware of their mental health and to seek help early if they need it,” McCabe said.
“We hope all students find something within the app that they benefit from, whether it’s the journaling tools called the ‘Wheel of Feels’ or the evidence-based Pomodoro timer to fight procrastination when their workload starts to build. We wanted something for everyone.”
Development and research testing were completed in partnership with Allianz Care Australia, which provided funding support for the extensive testing and co-design process throughout 2020 to 2023.