The Los Angeles Times reports that in a three-month pilot project this year, about 200 students at the Hyderabad campus of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, and another city university used a cellphone app to monitor their mental health and communicate with counselors by phone and text. The program, developed by Lantern, a San Francisco-based start-up is based on a proven approach called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which has been built in partnership with experts at Stanford University.
The app guides students in ways to manage stress in their lives with simple coping strategies like deep breathing and muscle relaxation as well as consultations with counselors over calls. Smita Sharma, the part-time counselor at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, said online therapy is cheaper than training more counselors and it meets the confidentiality needs of students. “This is very much in step with managing that stigma [of mental health issues], where you can reach out to somebody and help yourself in the privacy of your room,” she said.
Megan Jones, Lantern’s chief science officer, said the company’s studies show that the program helps users reduce anxiety levels by 40%. “For some, this will be enough to reach their full potential,” she said. “For others, they may benefit from further help, including therapy, and a positive experience with Lantern just might help increase the likelihood that they seek it.”