In an appearance on Vikerraadio's "Huvitaja," Kadri Haljas, co-founder of the startup Triumf and one of the creators of a new mobile game that supports children's mental health, found that while mobile app-based mental health care is not yet well-established in Estonia, such apps can be of great help in supporting the mental health of both children and adults.
It is difficult to offer psychological support to children via an app. Small children generally do things they enjoy, and avoid difficult situations.
"When it comes to children, offering support has to be very intuitive and safe, so that they don't feel like this is some kind of platform providing help, but rather that it is so cool for them and that they can learn through play via various activities," Haljas explained.
Triumf has developed a mobile game in which children with chronic illnesses, for example, are taught about their illness as they fight an illness monster, and as the game progresses, the child is offered support and shown that they are not alone in their fight against the illness, either in the game or in real life.
During the coronavirus crisis, the company has also developed a new version of the game aimed at supporting children who need help as they are quarantined at home.
At the same time, the need for help is very personal, especially when it comes to illness. According to Haljas, the game adjusts itself according to children's concerns.
"Whether there is a risk for the development of mood disorders or anxiety, for example," she explained. "Precisely according to what the child's concerns and weaknesses are, so that we can best support them, and what their strengths are, so that we can empower them. The use of this game is entirely different for each child."
Adapted to coronavirus crisis
Regarding the need to adapt the game to the coronavirus pandemic, Haljas said that fear is still fear, even in those without any illnesses or physical health problems.
"Offering psychological support regardless of the state of one's health is very important," she said.
The game offers practical information and talks about why it is important to wash one's hands or keep a distance from other people as well as explains why one can't visit their friends right now. The game also addresses deeper issues that may crop up as a child remains at home.
While parents at home right now are often juggling financial concerns, working from home complete with video meetings, and helping their children with distance learning school assignments and technical issues, children are also struggling with their own worries and confusion.
Haljas explained that while parents may be spending most of their time at home right now, children may still end up feeling as though their parents don't have enough time for them, as the latter have many obligations to tend to at once. At the same time, children have to rely on their parents' resources more than usual, which in turn can further strain the situation.
"There are mainly many concerns connected to distance learning and lacking one's own space, as the situation is just so different," she said. "[Children] can't get together with their friends or celebrate their birthdays, which is difficult for them."
Editor: Aili Vahtla