In 2022, Maynooth University and Trinity College published findings indicating that 42% of Irish adults met the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health disorder. Among this cohort, 12% were afflicted with Major Depressive Disorder, and 7% were grappling with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. This underscores the pressing need for an affordable and easily accessible solution to tackle this pervasive issue and empower individuals to effectively manage their anxiety from the comfort of their own homes. Furthermore, the IACP’s 2021 quarterly report underscored the financial dimension of this challenge, recommending a minimum therapy session fee of 70 euros to sustain their practice — a cost that many find burdensome to cover on a weekly basis.
The 2023 National Survey conducted by Aware gathered a nationally representative sample of 1200 Irish adults, revealing alarming statistics. It showed that 48% of respondents experienced frequent anxiety, and of those, 20% found their anxiety so debilitating that it significantly disrupted their daily lives.
Despite an 8% increase in mental health funding in the 2024 Budget, it still falls far short of the World Health Organization’s recommended allocation of 12-14%, with only 5.6% of the budget currently allocated to mental health care.
AnamVR, developed by Rob and Pierce, is a mobile app that leverages Virtual Reality (VR) to revolutionise anxiety treatment. With the mission to bridge the healthcare funding gap and provide an accessible and engaging solution, AnamVR seamlessly combines elements of gamification, psychoeducation, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This innovative app can be easily accessed on smartphones when paired with affordable VR headsets, allowing users to immerse themselves in tranquil environments while acquiring effective anxiety management techniques.
AnamVR encompasses modules for mood tracking, psychoeducational content, and resilience-building exercises. Users engage in immersive VR breathing exercises, mastering a range of proven techniques, including diaphragmatic breathing, to alleviate anxious symptoms. This approach creates a comforting space for individuals to reconnect with their bodies and their breath, ultimately enhancing their emotional well-being. Over time, AnamVR’s mood log encourages users to set goals and monitors their moods to showcase the positive impact of completing the various integrated modules.
The app empowers individuals to address anxiety symptoms from the convenience of their homes. AnamVR offers easily digestible psychoeducational content, complemented by VR-based breathing exercises aimed at reducing anxiety symptoms. The educational content simplifies the physiological aspects of anxiety and employs research-backed CBT techniques to bolster users’ mental resilience against anxiety symptoms in their daily lives.
Ideas Academy 2023
Both Rob and Pierce found the Ideas Academy modules incredibly engaging and believe they have greatly contributed to their personal growth. The program helped them enhance their strengths and identify weaknesses. “We’ve gained an understanding of empathy research and the crucial role of meaningful conversations and observations in this context. Additionally, we’ve come to appreciate the significance of framing our stories and have learned how to effectively communicate it to others.” Rob and Pierce were awarded €2,000 of seed funding at the end of the Ideas Academy program. This will be put towards the delivery of the pilot for AnamVR, including the purchasing of equipment, developing a website and building the brand with a design specialist.
“I feel overall after completing the ideas academy that I have a better understanding of myself, my organisation and our specific needs. I am confident that we can build something great to help our target audience. From Ideation, to defining the issue, to social media and organisational structure and finally telling our story. Overall my confidence in our approach has strengthened.” – Rob Sheridan
Pierce O’Brien and Rob Sheridan are the founders of AnamVR