General, Awareness

26 October, 2021

Five European organisations partner to design and develop mental health app for young people

Deirdre Keaveney and Orla Gogarty of St Patrick's Mental Health Services stand outside St Patrick's University Hospital in Dublin while carrying an Erasmus+ flag.

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) is partnering with four European organisations to develop a mobile app to support young people’s mental health.

The innovative new app, called Better ACT than React, aims to increase psychological flexibility skills in youth workers and, in turn, the young people they work with. Psychological flexibility means being able to stay in contact with the present moment, regardless of unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, while choosing behaviour based on the situation and personal values.

Supporting young people's mental health

Supporting young people's mental health

Better ACT than React provides a range of different activities focused on managing day-to-day stressors and challenges, and is based on the psychological principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is a psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies. It guides participants to be present with what life brings to them and move towards valued behaviour, rather than get rid of difficult feelings entirely.

The app is accompanied by curriculum materials for youth workers and young people. These learning and training materials will help youth workers and clinicians to guide participants and to avail of the psychological therapies embedded within the app.

Better ACT than React is being developed as part of a project supported under the European Union (EU) Erasmus + programme. Along with the curriculum materials and other outputs from the project, the app will be available free of charge to youth workers, organisations and individuals working with young people requiring additional mental health support.

The project has a number of key aims:

  • To improve the work with vulnerable youth groups in the field of development of psychological flexibility, healthy ways of dealing with stress, and emotional regulation
  • To empower people working with vulnerable youth groups to develop psychological flexibility so that they can cope more successfully with stress, protect themselves from burnout, and transfer those skills to the young people they work with
  • To raise awareness of life values in people working with vulnerable youth groups to feel more fulfilled while working with those groups.

Collaborating with European partners

Collaborating with European partners

We are partnering with four partner organisations to develop the app and materials. 8D Games, based in the Netherlands, is leading out on the technical and design elements of the app development. Meanwhile, Sirius in Croatia, DGASPC Harghita in Romania, and Med O.R.O scarl in Italy are three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with vulnerable young people, migrants, children in care and community development.

Initial meetings between partners took place online due to COVID-19 restrictions, with the first in-person meeting taking place in Dublin in July 2021 after EU travel restrictions were eased. 

In 2020, our team at SPMHS also provided an eight-day ACT training programme in 2020 to upskill and build capacity for representatives of the partner organisations. Training was delivered and  facilitated by Dr Sarah Cassidy and Aisling Leonard-Curtin, a chartered counselling psychologist who has been facilitating ACT groups through our Wellness and Recovery Centre for over a decade. This training will be further supported by additional learning events for youth workers from each of the partner countries, which will take place in Croatia in early 2022.

Opening access to therapy

Opening access to therapy

Speaking about the development of the new app and content, Orla Gogarty, our Director of Digital Health, said: “SPMHS is delighted to partner with four incredible organisations to deliver the Better ACT than React app and supporting materials that will aim to empower people working with vulnerable youth groups to develop skills so that they can better cope with stress, protect themselves from burnout and impart these skills to the young people they work with.”

“Our involvement in the development of this app closely aligns with SPMHS’ strategic aim of developing innovative technologies which support mental health. The app will facilitate greater access to an effective psychological therapy that may have been beyond the reach of many of the target groups.”

She added, “SPMHS has been delivering ACT programmes to our service users for over ten years and, as part of the development of the app, we were delighted to deliver training on ACT to our four project partners. We look forward to continuing our work on this app with our project partners and working with youth workers and young people going forward to deliver what will hopefully be an invaluable resource.”

If you are working with young people and would like to learn more about this project, get involved with using project materials, or take part in free upcoming training events, please email Deirdre Keaveney at

Protecting youth worker mental health

Learn more about how the principles of ACT can be used to support youth worker mental health.

Read more on supporting youth workers