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Could this free app be the key to staying mentally healthy during the pandemic?

"COVID Coach" was developed by a team of psychologists working with the Veterans Health Administration.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A team of psychologists from the Sacramento and Bay Area has built and continues to develop an app to specifically address mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Beth Jaworski, PhD. is a health science specialist and the research lead for the team.

“I’m a social psychologist by training and I’m interested in ways that we can de-stigmatize mental health,” said Jaworski.

Her team works for the National Center for PTSD under the umbrella of the Veterans Health Administration.

“One of the ways that I’ve thought about the work that I’m doing right now is as a digital mental health safety net,” explained Jaworski. “There’s a lot of stigma and there are a lot of barriers to people to be able to reach out for help, whether they are around stigma or around not having health insurance, not knowing how to access providers.”

She says people started reaching out when the pandemic began, looking for digital mental health resources. So the team built the app "COVID Coach" to compile the best resources they could find, and store it all in one place.

“COVID Coach is an app that’s designed to help people cope with stress related to the pandemic,” explained Jaworski.

She emphasized it is not a replacement for professional help, just a tool.

“This app is not a treatment replacement app,” said Jaworski. “This is designed to be something that anyone in the general public with a smartphone can use, you know, to help whenever they might need it, for a few minutes during the day, once a week.”

The app is free. Users do not need to create a profile and can begin using the resources right away.

“I would recommend trying a tool at first,” said Jaworski. “Maybe go to the manage stress section and see if there’s anything in there that is something you could try out, things like audio-guided exercises, ways to change how you think about things, how you frame issues. Because we’re part of the VA, there’s a section specifically for veterans and service members and resources that are available to them.”

Jaworski said all data is kept anonymous and independent of the VA. She said the goal is to provide resources for those trying to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic.

“This app can reach thousands and thousands of people, and if only just a few people need those resources, that’s still a few lives saved,” said Jaworski.

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