With school closures, online learning, and navigating an uncertain future, teenagers in the midst of discovering who they are in the world have been particularly affected by the pandemic. The struggles of their peer group inspired Astha and Sanjana, two grade 12 students at Semiahmoo Secondary School. They have developed, implemented and are promoting a mental health app specifically for teenagers. The development of the app began when they were only in Grade 11, and now they already have 55 users on their platform with a vision to create a helpline for kids with nowhere else to turn.
The Stigma-Free Society had the pleasure of speaking with Sanjana, one of the app’s founders, about the genesis of the myEsprit App and its intended benefits for teenagers.
Designing an app for high school students during a pandemic is quite an achievement. Can you tell me more about how this app came to be?
“In January 2020, I saw a contest through Girl Technovation Challenge, involving the creation of an app and a business plan and pitch to go alongside it. I found this to be a wonderful opportunity to make mental health accessible to youth. I decided to ask Astha for her support in developing the app, as I knew she was the expert when it came to technology. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to work alongside each other, as we combined our experiences and organizational, technological, and business skills to create not only an app but a business and organization to go alongside it.”
Who is this app for and why did you want to create a mental health resource for this group?
“The app’s target audience is teenagers. Since we are teenagers ourselves, we have access to contacts like schools, mental health institutes, clubs, and social media avenues to connect with this audience appropriately. We also have a good understanding of the needs of teenagers our age, and their barriers to accessing mental health support. For instance, we were able to include anonymous calling centres and opportunities to connect with support systems, as we know teenagers may not feel comfortable disclosing their name with mental health professionals, for fear of things like social services or being forced to take medications they don’t want. We also sternly believe it is important for people to be able to access self-care tools that permit them to prioritize their mental health and generate happiness. It is important to provide youth these tools at an early age, so they set in and can be used to face the challenges that come with adulthood. Statistics have shown that around 50% of adolescents have reported having a mental health condition and suicide is the third leading cause of death for teenagers. These statistics give further evidence of how crucial it is for teenagers to have access to tools to support themselves so they can carry them into adulthood, so they can access this information and support at this crucial and vulnerable stage in their lives.”
How is this app different from other mental health apps and what are some of the unique features?
“The myEsprit app’s focus is not simply providing resources and support systems for mental health issues, but also helping users learn to generate happiness and experience daily fulfillment and joy as well. We have made this app free and targeted to teenagers, and have also given youth access to other workshops, events, interviews, and blog posts made through our business and community as well.”
What are the main benefits you want people to receive from using the app?
“MyEsprit is a free app that can be found in various languages. Its main objective is to help people prioritize their happiness and provide them with access to long term resources. Our app offers various features including gratitude journaling, goal journaling, and reflective journaling. The features are offered to help support people in accessing awareness about the beauty their life already contains and form a deep appreciation for it. It also helps develop good habits and long-term goals revolving around things like health and fitness, family, intellectual life, social life, emotional life, character, career, quality of life, love, relationships, finances, and encourages self-reflection. Our mindfulness and breathing exercises help people find a sense of grounding and peace, in a matter of a few minutes, and can be something easily accessed throughout the day. The personal profile provides support systems that align well with the user’s needs including reminders of their favourite music or movies, or activities to do when feeling anxious or stressed out, and can also track mood, water intake, and exercise. Lastly, the app offers information on various mental health issues and specific and general resources to support people. Overall, we hope that the app provides a safe space for people to access a holistic form of mental health support and to prioritize their mental wellbeing and happiness.”
I hear you also want to create a mental health helpline for youth. Can you tell me more about this?
“We are incredibly grateful to be receiving the guidance and support of Daniel To, who is part of the Surrey school board. He has provided us with various networking and promotion opportunities and helped connect us with like-minded organizations. We were also
introducing the idea of developing a Youth helpline and look forward to continued discussions with him to make the idea a reality and receive the training we need to provide that additional support.”
Why does your team feel that mental health is a particularly important topic to address right now?
“Mental health is one of the most important topics to be addressed, and unfortunately is something that still has a lot of stigma. The mental wellbeing of a person affects not only them, but their relationships, their day-to-day practices, their work efforts, and even physical health. It can also affect the economy, the health of citizens, and the wellbeing of the whole community. Being able to give people access to a greater understanding of how their brain works and of mental health issues, including support systems, can help people overcome them, and is extremely vital to foster a happy, healthy, and prosperous community of citizens and global leaders.”
For more information and to download the myEsprit app, visit their webpage HERE.