The Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness is now offering free access to Headspace — a meditation app with the goal of improving mental health — to community members.

The Headspace app uses videos and audio sessions for several guided meditations with focuses on reducing stress and anxiety, improving focus and sleep, and much more.

The county’s Department of Behavioral Wellness has 5,000 apps to give out, although Suzanne Grimmesey, the chief quality care and strategy officer, said that soon it will have 10,000 apps.

Grimmesey also said the county is able to offer the program through funding from California’s Mental Health Services Act.

“Coming out of the pandemic, people are impacted,” Grimmesey said. “This is a wonderful, free, easy-to-use program … [Headspace] is one of the first meditation apps — a leader in mindfulness.”

The department recently led a community survey to look at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health locally. Grimmesey said that about 5,000 people responded.

Of those who responded, nearly 61% reported lower mental health because of COVID-19, with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, 27% of respondents reported being bothered by feelings of being tired or having lower energy, and 24% reported trouble sleeping.

“Moving forward from the significant disruption the pandemic has played in people’s lives, taking care of one’s mental health is critical for self-care and building resiliency as individuals and as a community,” Grimmesey said in a news release announcing the program.

The Headspace app is available in English and Spanish. Outside of the program, a subscription to the app would cost $69.99 per year if paying annually or $12.99 per month.

“Through science-backed meditation and mindfulness tools, Headspace helps you create life-changing habits to support your mental health and find a healthier, happier you,” the app’s website states.

The website for Headspace also boasts having more than 70 million users across 190 countries around the world, as well as studies that show a 40% decrease in depressive symptoms after eight weeks of using the app, a 31% decrease in anxiety symptoms after eight weeks, and a 22% increase in focus shown after just one session.

Community members who want to enroll in the program and download the Headspace app for free can do so through this special link from the county.

There are also people in Behavioral Wellness’s Help@Hand team who can assist with enrolling and using the Headspace app.

The Department of Behavioral Wellness offers many other services for adults, children and transitional-age youths experiencing mental health or other behavioral health problems, such as substance use disorders. Some of the services include inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, mentoring opportunities for children, school-based mental health programs, counseling and therapy services, and more.

The Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness has a 24-hour Crisis Response and Service Access Line at 888.868.1649 that people can call for assistance accessing services or if they are experiencing a mental health crisis.

“The department can help get them connected and steer them in the right way,” Grimmesey said about the access line.

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Serena Guentz, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at