During times of trauma or extreme stress, people tend to resist taking breaks for rest or self-care. When people power through chronic stress, it can lead to complications including depression, anxiety, and burnout. Stanford Medicine has launched Pause a Moment (PAM), a collection of tools that help people pause in the moment of stress and focus on their own wellbeing. 

Originally intended to support healthcare workers coping with the COVID-19 crisis, PAM is now available for free to anyone with access to a computer or mobile phone. It’s designed to provide resources for healthcare personnel who have shouldered an increasing burden in recent years due to the ongoing pandemic, uptick in healthcare use, and nursing and clinical staffing shortages. 

Known for their resilience, healthcare workers may not recognize they need help until they’re already experiencing burnout or PTSD symptoms. To encourage healthcare staff to make their mental wellness a priority, Stanford Medicine is providing PAM as part of a comprehensive package of mental health support services.

Stanford psychiatry, psychology, and behavioral health experts consulted clinicians, hospital staff, and students during PAM’s development. When users log in, PAM asks them to answer a few questions about their current mood and rank the intensity of their emotions on a scale of 1 to 10. 

PAM then presents customized suggestions for tools that alleviate stress, such as a short guided meditation or an exercise to reframe their perspective. Users can also bypass the questions and go straight to a tool they find helpful. These activities take 10 minutes or less, and they’re available at any time, in any location with cellular or internet service.

PAM’s developers say the platform can be tailored to address specific communities or distressing events. As PAM’s library of tools grows, it’s likely to have something to offer just about anyone. One can imagine a range of additions, such as gamified tools, digital therapeutics, and perhaps one day, VR integration. 

If Pause a Moment can scale and remain free and accessible, it might resemble the Facebook of mental wellness. That would certainly make a big difference in the ongoing US mental health crisis, provided PAM can avoid Facebook-level controversy. If anything deserves to become as ubiquitous as social media, it’s an evidence-based platform that makes finding support for mental health concerns as easy as posting a status update.