Two Siblings Create App to Help Prevent Teen Suicide

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Two Siblings Create App to Help Prevent Teen Suicide

Arcadia Patterson, Contributer

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What if you have depression and feel lonely or scared like you want to commit suicide? There is now an app called “notOk” that allows you to push one button to send a message and your GPS location to 5 pre-selected contacts for when you feel suicidal.

The app was developed by two siblings, Hannah Lucas, 16, and Charlie Lucas, 13. The app launched in January of 2018.

Hannah says the idea for the app came to her during a “really, really dark time” when she was dealing with severe depression and anxiety after being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a chronic illness that causes frequent fainting. Mental health stats reinforce the need for help for teens: depression rates in teens jumped by 63 percent from 2013 to 2016. More than 1.7 million youth with major depressive disorders received no treatment. Mental Health America recognized the notOK app with its 2018 mPower Award. The app, which is also endorsed by Born This Way Foundation and the American Association of Suicidology, is free, but you can opt to pay a $2-per-month sponsorship or make a one-time donation of $10 or $20.

“Peer support makes a difference. It’s very different when you hear “I need help” from someone you know closely,” said Charlie

How did two young kids make this app a reality?

Charlie: “I’ve always been interested in programming. I took coding classes online and me and my sister did a summer camp on coding.”

Hannah: “We went to the library often during summer break doing research on mental health. It was eye-opening. We created the app because we needed it, but the more research we did the more we found out how many people needed it. One in five kids have depression, and that’s just the kids who have talked about it or asked for help.”

How do you know you’re reaching people in need?

Charlie: “I measure success with this app by how many people we have helped, how many people have downloaded it. We’re going to expand to other countries and more languages.”

Hannah: “I have used this app multiple times, both for POTS (because it’s a chronic illness and I still have it) and depression. I still have episodes of depression and it’s still a battle for me. Success is how close we come to truly ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. I’m always getting direct messages from people saying, “Thank you for sharing your story. Now, I know I’m not alone.” So many people think they’re the only one. When they hear our story they think, Holy crap. She struggles with this too.”

“Initially we created this app because I needed it. After I was diagnosed with POTS, I was bullied. I developed depression and bad anxiety and started to self-harm, said Hannah, “During a suicide attempt my mom came in and found me. She held me, and from that chaos I got the idea. We call this app “my little Phoenix” because it’s something good arising from the ashes.”