Inspiration delivered: Alberta psychiatrist pioneers positive text messages

A Fort McMurray psychiatrist has formulated a winning remedy for anxiety and depression. Apparently a text a day can keep the blues away.

'It's more beneficial than trusting that people will reach out for help on their own'

An Alberta Health Services program delivers daily affirmations via text message. (Shutterstock)

A Fort McMurray psychiatrist has formulated a winning remedy for anxiety and depression.

Apparently a text a day can keep the blues away.

Text4Mood is a service that sends subscribers daily inspirational text messages to help them break through the daily gloom.

Participants receive one of 400 pre-written messages over the course of six months, such as "What you do today, will determine how you are tomorrow, rise up and take advantage of whatever opportunities today presents."

The service was created by Vincent Agyapong, a clinical psychiatrist and and associate clinical professor with the department of psychiatry at the University of Alberta, with funding help from Alberta Health Services.

 
One of the 400 pre written supportive text messages that you can receive from AHS. (CBC)
 More than 5,000 people have signed up for the service since it was launched in January.

On Friday, Agyapong was honoured with an AHS Spirit Award for innovation.

Agyapong said his patients often feel isolated and struggle to remain motivated during their recovery, but simple daily affirmations can help them feel connected.

Though he designed the program for people with mental health issues, anyone can benefit from a steady supply of inspiration.

"People are very busy with their daily struggles to survive, so if you have a mechanism where you can reach out to people without them having to put in any effort, it's very effective," Agyapong said in an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

"If you have an effortless intervention that arrives to your phone, it's more beneficial than trusting that people will reach out for help on their own."

'It was just one message but it made a big impact on me'

A poll of more than 4,000 users conducted by Agyapong and his research team found the messages are beneficial to those with mental health issues.

More than 83 per cent of respondents said the service enhanced their quality of life. More than 75 per cent said the messages help them feel connected to a support system.

Agyapong came up with the idea a few years ago, when he first started doing his doctoral research on addictions and substance abuse. He was trying to pick a topic of study and was struggling in his new position.

That is, until he heard a 'bing' from his cellphone.

"Out of the blue, a friend sent me a motivational text message that somebody had sent him," said Agyapong. "And I began thinking about sending motivational text messages to people that are feeling depressed on a more consistent basis. And that lead to the research, and subsequently the Text4Mood program."  

"It was just one message but it made a big impact on me."

The program was initially designed as a six-month pilot program, but AHS has extended funding for the campaign.

To sign up, text mood to 760-670-3130.