By Debbie Gregory.
Everyone has smartphones. Virtually everywhere you go, people can be seen tapping, swiping and fat-fingering their phones. Besides calling, texting, and emailing, phones are now equipped with the ability to do most anything through the use of Mobile Applications (Apps). Apps can be schedule planers, games, sounds, flashlights, consumer advice, diet trackers, media players, driving directions, food recommendations… basically there’s an App for just about EVERYTHING. Apps can be downloaded at no cost, or for a few dollars, depending on the App, your type of phone and your cell phone provider.
Recently, researchers from the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), a part of the DOD, has developed an App that is designed to help Veterans who suffer from mental illnesses and injuries. The App is called “Virtual Hope Box”. It basically has five functions to aid users.
The first function is the Reminder box. The Reminder box is a window that allows the user to upload images, videos, and songs from their phone’s stored files, or from YouTube. The idea being you store a collection of reminders all in one place to remind you what you have to be happy about, live for, or look forward to. Pictures of loved ones, funny or inspirational videos and motivating songs are recommended for the Reminder box.
The next function is a green button labeled “Distract Me.” The button has an image of a video game controller. When users tap the green button, a new window opens and four new green buttons are visible. These buttons lead the user to four games: Sudoku Puzzle, Photo Puzzle, Word Search, and Mahjong Solitaire. The games are easy, but a good way to take your mind off of troubling thoughts, or burning time when you are not going anywhere for a while.
Next to the green button is an orange button with an image of a quill and paper, with the words “Inspire Me.” When users tap the orange button, they are given inspirational quotes. These quotes can be used as a daily inspiration or reaffirmation.
On the bottom row of Virtual Hope Box’s main screen is a blue button labeled “Relax me.” The blue button has an image of a figure meditating. When the user taps this button they are led to a window with five options for relaxation exercises. These exercises are: Controlled Breathing, Muscle Relaxation, Guided Meditation- Beach, Guided Meditation- Forest, and Guided Meditation- Country Road. These relaxation exercises are useful for calming an oncoming anxiety attack, gaining focus or for starting or ending the day.
The last function of Virtual Hope Box can be found by tapping the purple button, on the lower right-hand button from the main screen, labeled “Coping Tools.” By tapping the purple button, the user is prompted to choose either the Activity Planner or Coping Cards. The Activity Planner is pretty self-explanatory and necessary to keep the user on task, if they have problems motivating themselves. Coping Cards are intended to help the user manage problem areas. For each card, the user is prompted to pick a problem area, identify emotions and symptoms that accompany that problem area, and list ways that help them cope with that area. Coping Cards are good because they help the user to address their issues and hindrances.
The Virtual Hope Box App can be downloaded for free by Android users. We were unable to find it on the iphone network. It is highly recommended for anyone, especially Veterans, who have experienced concerns with their mental health.