An app that shows emotion

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It is not easy to express feelings. Heavy Mental wants to change that by creating a place where vague emotional worlds and mental moods are visible and valued. Entirely without guilty conscience and well-intentioned advice.

The first version of the app will be used as a prototype to learn more about your wishes, ideas, and needs in order to incorporate them into the further development of the app.

Heavy Mental was realized in the specialization Trends & Identity“ in the research field Care Futures at the Zurich University of the Arts. Heavy Mental was funded by the Sanitas Health Insurance Foundation.


Why it's important to show feelings

«In the same way we care for our bodies by exercising, our mind also needs to be looked after. Instead of waiting to hit rock bottom, what can we be doing regularly to help us have a more balanced emotional and mental wellbeing?»

Poppy Jamie, Happy Not Perfect, 2021

We all know what we have to do to stay physically healthy. We know our body's individual weaknesses and how we can prevent illnesses through healthy lifestyles. When a healthy lifestyle isn't enough, we recognize the first symptoms of a problem. And we know how to treat these symptoms and the causes of illness through therapy or medicine. We are experts when it comes to our health. No one knows what helps and hurts our bodies as well as we do.

«Trying to be happy all the time would require a great deal of denial. Denial requires a large dumping of all kinds of negative stuff into our unconscious. It is inevitable that when »stuff« is dumped into our unconscious it will come back to bite us and others at some point.»

Anne Wilson Schaef: «The Wonders of Our Unconscious». In: Daily Reminders for Living a New Paradigm 2017

But everything is upended when it comes to our psychological health. Often, we treat our mental state as though we had no influence over it. Or, we think that it’s out of the question that we could even be affected by mental illness. It is actually just as unlikely that we will go through life untouched by a psychological issue as it is that we would never be physically ill. The Heavy Mental app is based on the assumption that there is no dividing line between «mentally ill» and «healthy,» only a fluid transition between the two. Between these two extremes, there are countless, continually changing, complementary, and often contradictory feelings. Feelings that we do not deal with enough.

«I’m always scared that every feeling is going to be permanent.»

Melissa Broder, So Sad Today: personal Essays, 2016

We tend to repress emotions, especially when they’re socially undesirable. To conserve our strength, this might make sense in the short term. But in the long term, these emotions return with even more force. For this reason, we must find the courage to face them. In doing so, they lose their destructive power. Psychological research overwhelmingly shows how important it is for our mental well-being to take note of feelings and to share them with others. Especially those feelings that we would rather not feel.

«Low emodiversity is characterized by emotional experiences that are relatively homogeneous and concentrated in a few emotion categories. Whereas high emodiversity reflects emotional experiences that are relatively diverse and distributed more evenly across categories.»

Anthony D., Lizbeth Benson, Alex J. Zautra, and Nilam Ram. «Emodiversity and Biomarkers of Inflammation», 2017

Research also shows how important a range of emotional perception is. The term is «emodiversity,» similar to biodiversity in ecosystems. The more sophisticated we become at recognizing and naming our emotions, the more resistant and stable we become. We all know how difficult it can be to put complex moods into words. But this ability can be trained and learned. Heavy Mental can help.

Heavy Mental offers a variety of features to help you express your feelings. You can visualize your feelings in the form of mood images, view your emotional history and give feedback. We're constantly working on new features to give you an even better experience.






From 15 different feelings, select a maximum of three that best describe your mental state at the moment. Place the selected feelings: the more intensely you perceive them, the higher up they are. Heavy Mental translates your feelings into shapes, colors and movements: Your personal Mood Image.





Learn more about each feeling

Take a look at the feelings in the app to learn more about the character and effects of feelings on us, and to better describe your own feelings.


You can add a comment to the finished mood image, save it in your Mood Gallery and share it on social networks.


Heavy Mental's AR feature allows you to place your mood image in your real environment, bring it to life, and thus view it from the outside and with some distance.


Here you can find support

In Switzerland, professionally trained counselors from Pro Juventute are available to help you with mental crises. You can reach them around the clock by phone, SMS, chat, email and via their internet platform 147.ch at the phone number 147. All contact is anonymous and confidential, and they are happy to help you with questions about your feelings, mental health issues, and crises.

If you live outside of Switzerland, you can also find similar help, support and counseling for mental crises in other countries at the numbers listed.

Rat auf Draht
phone: 147

phone: 103

phone: 70 232750

Fil Santé Jeunes
0800 235 235

Nummer gegen Kummer e.v.
phone: 116111

Telefono Azzurro

SOS Distress
phone: 454545
website: 454545.lu

Kinder telefoon

phone: 90101

Anarphone: 900 20 20 10


Design approaches to current mental health crises among teens

Heavy Mental is based on the outcome of three finalized research projects that complement each other:

In the first phase, with the support of ZHAW and Pro Juventute, comprehensive design-ethnographic research was conducted on the motives that shape how adolescents and young adults deal with mental crises today.

In the second phase, the applied research, a prototype was designed with the participation of adolescents and young adults that responds to the their expressed needs.

In the third phase, prototypical realization and implementation, the prototype of the app Heavy Mental was developed. It is available to download for iOS in the app store since the beginning of 2023. It works as a pre-stage and reduced test version of the final app.

«Exploring a New World of Sadness»: Grundlagenforschung zur veränderten Ästhetik und Repräsentation von psychischem Leid bei Jugendlichen im Kontext digitaler Transformation. Projektförderung: Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz.

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«Do you care?»: Angewandtes Forschungsprojekt zur gestalterischen Entwicklung eines proto-typischen Mental-Health-Tools für Jugendliche. Projektförderung: Jubiläumsstiftung der Mobiliar.

PDF Download

«Heavy Mental»: Entwicklung, Gestaltung, Programmierung und Implementierung des Prototyps. Projektförderung: Sanitas Stiftung

App Prototype


Heavy Mental can be located in the intersection between the two major transaformation movements of health and digitization, in the field of E-Mental-Health. The app responds on the one hand to the fact that (Swiss) young people use their cell phones between three and five hours a day, and on the other hand to the sharp increase in mental illness among them in Switzerland and Europe.

There is an urgent need for creative prevention strategies that help adolescents and young adults to understand and manage their moods at an early stage.

In particular, there is currently a lack of offers that succeed in addressing the lifeworld and the specific demands of young people adequately. With Heavy Mental we aim to do just that. It should be obvious that it is exclusively addressed to young adults and adolescents and that older generations, especially the parents' generation, are not included.

Heavy Mental should be used in the future as part of prevention measures. The aim is to create a closer connection to the young target group in the context of mental health.


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