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For University Of Missouri Students Struggling With Mental Health Issues — There’s An App For That

The Sanvello app is available to all University of Missouri students at all of its campuses 02-21-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio
The Sanvello app is available to all University of Missouri students at all of its campuses.

Stress, anxiety and depression can be part of the college experience for many students, so the University of Missouri System is hoping a mobile app can help them cope better and be healthy.

The university purchased the rights for students on the campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla to download and use the app called Sanvello. Normally it costs $8.95 a month. 

It has functions including self-assessments, guided meditations, breathing exercises and behavioral studies that are designed to help manage mental health issues.

Sanvello uses cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness principles to help people. The app has generally received positive reviews from mental health professionals. Dr. Marty Nemko wrote in Psychology Today: “Sanvello would seem to have no downsides and lots of upsides. It relies on mainstream respected psychological practices.”

The university intends the technology to be a complement to therapy, counseling and other traditional mental wellness practices.

“It really is much more about what can people do to support and assist themselves with it, said Christopher Sullivan, director of health at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “It can be a very beneficial resource and support, but at the same time it does not take the place of professional assistance and treatment.”

Sullivan said each campus will also get monthly reports on how many people are using the app and in what ways. He also said it is totally private.

“We only see aggregate numbers. It’s impossible for us to know who is using it or how,” Sullivan said.

At Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, the app is one of several new initiatives to meet the increasing demand for mental health services.

“The requests for services from our students are growing faster than enrollment,” said Jessica Gargus, director of wellness at Missouri S&T. “The app can help students address some mental health issues before they become too serious.”

Gargus said while the campus is trying to make more counselors available and initiate peer assistance for mental health issues, it makes sense to reach students where they consistently spend time.

“They are doing schoolwork on their phones, they are chatting with friends on their phones. And so, this makes a whole lot of sense that’s where we need to be also,” Gargus said.

Gargus said in the first month Sanvello was available to students, it was downloaded more than 400 times. That represents about 5% of the student body. She said more marketing is planned to get the word out about the app.

The University of Missouri System plans to look at data and collect feedback from students on the effectiveness of Sanvello.

“I think between the numbers and talking to students, we will get a pretty good sense pretty quickly if it’s something that helps them. And we think it will,” Gargus said.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.