A free mental health app is now available to students, and it was designed right here in Calgary.

The third Monday in January is supposedly Blue Monday, the saddest day of the year. In fact, the idea of Blue Monday was started by a travel company as a stunt to sell more vacations, but a Calgary psychiatrist doesn’t mind that one bit.

“It’s important to recognize that there is no scientific evidence that this is a particularly blue Monday,” said Dr. Bud Rickhi. “It brings attention to one of the major mental health illnesses which is depression that we have, so I appreciate it being used in that context.”

It also inspired him to create a app called Breathing Room, where people can find talks, stories and songs aimed at helping anxious and depressed youth aged 13 to 24.

“Different concepts, it brings them through forgiveness, compassion,  gratitude and just self-acceptance and self-expression,” said Shannon Wolfe, Breathing Room project manager. “So it allows them to change their perception on themselves and others and just kind of see it a little different as well as their abilities and actions to be able to control their emotions.”

Mount Royal University has now made the app available to students for free thanks to a donor as part of a strategy to address mental health on campus. Last year, the university polled students about what most impacts their academic performance. 40 per cent said stress, 31 per cent said anxiety and 18 per cent said depression.

So far, 1,200 students have used the app, and it’s even part of the curriculum for two classes.

“Participating in the Breathing Room helped them recognize that they weren’t alone, that there are other students dealing with the stuff they are dealing with,” said Kandi McElary, MRU's Director of Wellness Services.

With one in five Canadians struggling with mental health issues, developers hope the app will help. You can buy the app for both Apple and Android.