In ROOM, students can assess their emotional state daily, after which they are recommended various exercises and interventions they can use to work on their mental health. These include audio clips, but also Duolingo-like exercises or short questionnaires.
A lot of preparation went into the app because the researchers set high standards for themselves. “We want the app to be pleasant to use, and at the same time we want all the information to be evidence-based. This is quite a struggle, because you don’t want to put a whole lot of text in the app, so a lot of work goes into making the content more interactive, but also correct”, says project leader Djameela Dulloo of the Student Wellbeing program. That combination of tailored, evidence-based help and an attractive app is fairly unique in the world, according to Dulloo. “That requires a lot of effort, and a lot of testing. Because an attractive text to one student may be boring to another.”
With the app, the researchers hope to provide students with more knowledge about themselves and their mental health and give them a tool to manage their stress and regulate their emotional state. “First-year students don’t always realise how life-changing moving to university can be. The app not only helps them to check in with how they are doing, but also to what extent there could be an issue and how they can develop skills to cope. Many students have no idea”, says Dulloo. The researchers hope to incorporate mental health and personal development into regular education programmes in the future.
The app is not meant as a replacement for professional help, Dulloo stresses. “Our ideal is that students use the app before they develop serious symptoms, and by doing so they may prevent things from getting worse. If the app detects that you’re not doing well, it will advise you to contact a student advisor or psychologist. But the app doesn’t diagnose”, she adds.
The development of the app is now in its second test phase and a third phase will follow before it is scheduled to launch in September 2024. You can sign up to participate in the test phase here.