App to help HSC students stress less

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A new app that helps HSC students manage stress by teaching them mindfulness meditation techniques has been launched on iTunes and Google Play stores.

The free app, ‘HSC Stress-Less’, was developed by psychology researchers at UOW with the assistance of high-achieving year 11 students at schools in the greater Sydney and Illawarra regions, including students at St George Christian School, Illawarra Christian School and Keira High.

Project leader Dr Rebecca Sng (pictured above), from UOW’s School of Psychology, said many of the young people presenting at mental health services in the Illawarra describe their final year of high school as “extremely stressful”.

“We know from previous research that mindfulness meditation can assist with managing stress as well as symptoms of issues such as anxiety and depression,” Dr Sng said.

“In the simplest terms, mindfulness is the art of ‘intentional attention’. That is, being able to step back and observe, in a non-judgemental manner, our inner sensations and experiences. The app aims to provide this resource to young people in a form they were very familiar with.”

Dr Sng said the app contains a series of audio-guided meditations that allow a student to build up their “mindfulness muscle” so that they are better able to “unstick” from stressful feelings. She noted it also contains a number of short videos made by the Year 11 students explaining mindfulness and how it might be useful, as well as a reminder system that prompts students to practice their mindfulness skills.

Dr Sng, a practicing clinical psychologist is passionate about helping young people and their families.

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“We know that mental health difficulties in adolescence often lead to difficulties in adulthood if not treated. Mental health issues are so incredibly common and cost our society such a lot in terms of not only distress but also resources. It just makes sense to try and help young people gain the skills they need to manage these issues early.”

Dr Sng decided to create the app after writing a program using mindfulness skills for students at Strathfield Girls High School, in Sydney.

“I found students had trouble remembering to practice the skills between program sessions so I thought this app would help them do that,” she said.

Dr Sng said the HSC has the potential to bring to a head a number of other stressors for young people, whether that be problems with relationships or “ideas about having to be perfect to be valuable”, but every student has a different experience depending on their circumstances.

“Just because you’re all doing the HSC the year doesn’t mean you’re all the same. Everyone has different challenges and goals. Everyone has different resources available to them. The aim of tools like the HSC Stress-Less app is to give you the skills and space to think clearly about your priorities and values, so that you can decide how you would like to live them out.”

Dr Sng and her team plan to analyse the app’s usage data – how the students use the features of the app – as well asking users to rate their mood before and after using the app in order to evaluate the app’s effectiveness.

(Source: University of Wollongong)

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Date Created: May 5, 2015 Date Modified: May 10, 2015