COVID-19: digital mental health tools that can help

Changes to telehealth services during Coronavirus mean that all Australians can now access professional mental health support without leaving home. But, did you know that there are free online tools that can help too?

These programs can help people experiencing worry, stress, depression and anxiety, or for those who are simply looking to boost their mental health and wellbeing during this time.

For more Black Dog Institute (BDI) resources to reduce the incidence of mental illness and empower everyone to live the most mentally healthy lives possible, visit the BDI Hub.


Four tips for finding a good digital mental health tool

While there are lots of digital mental health tools that are available to the general public, the majority of them are not supported by research. This means that finding a good digital mental health tool that’s effective and suits your needs can require some investigation, mainly to see if it has been shown to improve mental health through evidence-based research.

Here are our tips:

  • Don’t just look at app ratings – High star-ratings or numbers of downloads might indicate the popularity of an app, but this doesn’t equate to quality.
  • Find out who developed the app – Do they have experience and a good reputation in mental health? What other apps have they developed?
  • The privacy policy – It might not be glamorous, but it’s important to check that one exists. With health apps, it’s important to know how your data is protected.
  • Look for evidence – Try to determine if there is any evidence that the app is effective in achieving its goal. Even if apps don’t have a large amount of research to support their use, the core principles should be derived from scientific evidence.

Online mental health programs and supported services


A free online self-help program developed by the Black Dog Institute. In a study of 720 people, myCompass was shown to significantly improve mild to-moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.

The program consists of 14 modules that teach cognitive behavioural techniques and strategies to manage your mood.

Visit myCompass

Black Dog Institute's Online Clinic

A free mental health assessment tool designed for people over the age of 18 who are concerned they are developing a mental health issue, or would like to get a better understanding of their mental health. It involves answering a few short questions about how you’ve been feeling over the last two weeks.

Based on your answers, you’ll receive a personalised report that can be printed off and discussed with your GP. The report will also include guidance on different tools and resources you can use to improve mental health. This is a completely confidential clinic and no personal details are required.

Visit The Online Clinic

This Way Up

A suite of more than 10 different online brief psychology courses, for individuals experiencing a range of psychological difficulties. These programs were developed by clinicians and researchers at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and the University of New South Wales. This Way Up programs have been scientifically evaluated in over 40 clinical trials.

They have numerous self-guided and clinician supervised courses for people of all ages who are experiencing stress, anxiety and depression, as well as health anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain.

The therapies delivered are based on cognitive-behavioural therapy and mindfulness approaches, through a series of approximately 6 online modules. Studies have shown that 80% of people who complete a course feel significantly better, and 50% of people are no longer troubled by their concerns.

All courses are currently free during the COVID-19 crisis, until the end of April 2020.

Visit This Way Up


An interactive self-help program for people over the age of 16 developed by researchers at the Australian National University. The program is based on cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT), and has been shown to be effective in preventing and treating anxiety and depression.

It features five interactive modules which include various self-help exercises and quizzes, and is free to use for all Australians.

Visit moodgym

The Centre for Clinical Interventions

A psychology service in Perth that has developed self-help ‘workbooks’ and sets of modules on different types of anxiety including health anxiety, sleep, worry, procrastination, perfectionism and numerous other topics.

There are also a number of education sheets about different types of symptoms and treatment approaches which can be useful.

Visit The Centre for Clinical Interventions

MindSpot Clinic

Australia’s first free national online mental health clinic that offers psychological assessment and treatment for people experiencing stress, worry, anxiety and depression. The online assessment takes about 20-30 minutes and is available to people who are at least 18 years old, currently living in Australia and are eligible for Medicare.

When you complete the assessment, you have the option to speak to a MindSpot therapist about your mental health to make sure the report is accurate. Once this is complete, a MindSpot therapist will put together your report and suggest appropriate online courses that are guided by clinicians, plus local services where you can access help.

Visit The MindSpot Clinic

Mindfulness apps


An app which offers a free two-week trial and teaches you how to meditate and boost mindfulness with guided exercises, videos, and more. Research supports this app, with evidence indicating that it helps reduce stress, increase life satisfaction and improve focus.

Visit Headspace

Smiling Mind

A free mindfulness app developed by psychologists and educators for young people. It’s focused on daily meditation and mindfulness exercises, and can help you stay calm and healthy while you’re spending more time indoors.

Smiling Mind has been shown to help manage stress, resilience, anxiety and depression, and improve general health and wellbeing. The app also includes programs in a number of Aboriginal languages such as Kriol, Ngaanyatjarra and Pitjantjatjara created with help from Central Australia’s NPY Women’s Council.

Visit Smiling Mind

Programs for young people


An online program developed by a team of researchers from the University of Queensland that helps children and young people overcome anxiety. The program was developed based on 12 years of strong empirical research, and features cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques.

BRAVE features 10 sessions where young people learn the skills through animations, quizzes, puzzles, and interactive games to deal with fearful or worrying situations.


Sleep Ninja

A mental health app developed by researchers at the Black Dog Institute for young people experiencing sleep problems, which has been shown to play an important role in mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

The app teaches evidence-based cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) strategies specifically for sleep difficulties in a fun and interactive way, and is now undergoing a large trial to see how it impacts on a range of outcomes including mood, worry, fatigue and general health.

The app is currently available through our Dream On trial, so if you’re a young person aged 12-16 years (or a parent of a teen in this age range), you can apply to be a part of the trial and gain access to the app.

Visit Sleep Ninja

ReachOut Breathe

A mental health app which helps reduce physical symptoms of stress and anxiety by helping to slow down breathing and heart rate via your iPhone or Apple Watch. You can use the app when you’re feeling anxious or experiencing any type of physical stress like shortness of breath, increased heart rate or tightening of the chest.

It’s designed to help control panic attacks and might be useful if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the coronavirus situation right now and could use a tool to help you refocus your attention and slow down your breathing.

Visit ReachOut Breathe

For more Black Dog Institute (BDI) resources to reduce the incidence of mental illness and empower everyone to live the most mentally healthy lives possible, visit the BDI Hub.