NIU students can download free self-care app

Huskies headed into the end of the semester can give themselves an easy boost in wellbeing by using a free self-care and stress management app.

IntelliCare for College Students was developed through a partnership between a research team from Northwestern University and Counseling and Consultation Services, as well as students from both Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Huskies have helped shape the app for about two years, from participating in design workshops to being interviewed by researchers — and finally trying it themselves this year. NIU students need an iPhone or Android device to download IntelliCare, which is available only in English.

“I’m really interested in how we can use digital mental health tools to extend the availability of resources and services and help people get connected with care,” said lead researcher Emily Lattie, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Northwestern’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies in the Department of Medical Social Sciences. “We’re looking to see how we can help people — and learn from them so we can go on to help more people.”

IntelliCare allows students to track their mood over time, take mental-health screening questionnaires and receive personalized feedback. The app also comes with a slew of stress-management tools. Why should Huskies use it?

“We know that effective self-care helps students handle stress better and perform academically,” said Associate Director of Student Wellness Andrea Drott. “This app offers a really good opportunity for structured self-care that you don’t have to put a lot of thought or effort into.”

Huskies can explore the app for long-term self-care solutions, or just start out by using it to cope during an extra stressful time, like finals week.

“It’s a tool to help facilitate that harder part of getting into the action phase,” said Drott. “Use it when you need it.”

One of Lattie’s major research interests is understanding how to support college students through their “emerging adulthood period.” Last month, her research team published the results of a pilot study with NIU and UIC in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Her next planned study is extending the focus from state universities to community colleges to encompass diverse populations and create data that is representative of the majority of students.

The ongoing work at Northwestern is funded by a Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health. Currently, NIU students have to download the app by the end of this semester in order to use it permanently, but Lattie says the goal is to extend access for new users to the end of the Spring 2021 semester. Once downloaded, Huskies can keep the app indefinitely.

“We recognize this is a really rough year for a number of reasons and want to continue to provide whatever kinds of support that we can,” said Lattie. “I encourage people to check it out.”

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