This week, I'm happy to share the result of a 2+ year collaboration between Torusoft and Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC). Developed in support of the Canadian Armed Forces Health Services Group, the Road to Mental Readiness mobile app is now officially available for download on iOS and Android. This application will serve as a companion to the Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) curriculum, which is delivered nation-wide to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as first responders, their families, and the general public.

About the Road to Mental Readiness

The Road to Mental Readiness program itself originated within the Department of National Defence, in order to help promote mental resiliency, enhance soldiers' ability to perform under stressful situations, and defend against long-term operational stress injuries.

The curriculum covers an impressive range. Here are some examples of skills that participants are taught:

  • lowering your heart rate under stress by regulating your breathing;
  • improving performance under pressure by conducting detailed mental rehearsals of stressful situations;
  • improving your outlook by interrogating negative thoughts, focusing on accomplishments, and quieting self-doubt;
  • achieving long-term success by setting specific, measurable, achievable and realistic goals;
  • improving your cognitive abilities by developing short-term working memory, increasing your attention span, and filtering out distractions; and finally,
  • learning how to recognize a decline in your mental health, and taking appropriate action to reverse it.

In partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, R2MR has since been adapted to suit a first-responder workplace audience, with support from New Brunswick RCMP, Calgary Police Services, Edmonton Police Services, Vancouver Police Department, Ontario Police College, Peel Police, Quebec City Police, and Fredericton Police. That this training is now offered nation-wide - and beyond the military - speaks to its effectiveness at improving mental health outcomes.

Why this is significant

As an army reservist, I've experienced R2MR training first-hand throughout my career. It works. However, as with any set of skills, ongoing practice is the key to mastery.

The R2MR mobile app exists to fill the gaps between mandatory annual briefings & classroom training sessions, and to encourage participants to build habits to support their own mental resilience. It's an instructional tool designed to provide scaffolding and reinforcement once participants leave the classroom sessions and skill-fade sets in. Quite literally, your phone will badger you to keep practising exercises, report on your effectiveness and performance, counsel you to reframe negative thoughts, and remind you to check in on your goals, bookmark accomplishments and assess your mental health on a daily basis - or until these behaviours become habits.

Why this is significant to us

Since 2015, what began as a small project gradually grew in scope, reach and importance, both for our client and for our company. Torusoft's involvement changed from arms-length prototype development, programming and layout to technical consultation, interface & workflow design and project management. Through our collaboration with DRDC, we also had the opportunity to mentor three cohorts of college interns on mobile application development, as well as support the conduct of research projects and usability studies. We consistently delivered effective results in all these roles, and I'm proud of what we were able to accomplish together.

Writing as an army reservist, it has been tremendously gratifying to work on a tool that will be used by my peers in the military. At some point in our lives, we will all struggle with mental health issues. These struggles won't always line up neatly with the timing of mandatory annual briefings. To persevere and bounce back, we need to be equipped with the right tools and the right mental habits. R2MR provides both -- more effectively now than ever before.

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Ari Najarian