App links suffering teens with resources

A Ransom Everglades student envisions an app that would provide a preliminary diagnosis and resources for relief of depression and anxiety in the privacy of one’s own smartphone.

05/18/2014 7:00 PM

09/08/2014 7:18 PM

Catherine Lindsay, 17 and a junior at Ransom Everglades School in Miami-Dade, said mental illness is nothing foreign to her as a teenager living in an “era of oversharing.”

Beyond friends and relatives who suffer from disorders like depression, anxiety and bipolar, Lindsay connects with people all over the world via sites like Tumblr and Blogspot, where “the anonymity of these services persuade teenagers to air their deepest emotional turmoils publicly.”

“I’ve become extremely empathetic,” she said. “The people suffering the most are less likely to seek help because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.”

Lindsay’s idea for MoodPoint, an app that would provide a preliminary diagnosis and resources for relief in the privacy of one’s own smartphone, won second place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge’s High School Track.

She stressed that the app would not replace medical attention but aid people to seek out help by eliminating the obstacles of time, copay and social stigma.

Users would swap a copay for a $2.99 download cost and fill out a compendium of psychological tests that would take only 15 minutes to complete, she said.

“It’s easier to be honest to an app than to a person,” Lindsay said. “If they download the app, that’s the first sign that they want help. After their preliminary diagnosis, they can feel more comfortable making the investment of time and money to get treatment.”

To differentiate MoodPoint from other psychiatric testing apps, Lindsay plans to encourage users to log their sleeping patterns, geotag activities and document food intake with pictures. Those technical enhancements rang a chord with Challenge judges.

MoodPoint would also connect users with local psychiatrists and specialists by simply entering a zip code. Doctors could also use the information the patient logs into the app as part of treatment. “These metrics are usually used for dieting apps, but they can be used in an entire untapped market,” Lindsay said. “It can help users find a correlation between their lifestyle and mental health.”

Lindsay drafted the business plan in her Advanced Placement macroeconomics/microeconomics class taught by Jennifer Nero, chair of Ransom’s Social Sciences Department. Nero encourages her students to develop plans with social impact.

“There are walks for all sorts of cancers and diseases — why aren’t we walking for mental illnesses?” said Lindsay, who is actively involved in Ransom’s Women Empowered Club and Model United Nations team. She is also editor-in-chief of Ransom’s literary magazine, head content editor of the school newspaper, and has interned with the Miami Herald’s Neighbors, Islander News and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami office.

While MoodPoint remains an idea on paper, Lindsay will campaign for $7,749 in funds on Indiegogo. She plans to outsource the app’s programming, launch it in the Apple store and advertise on Facebook. Lindsay hopes to reach 14,600 users, mainly youth, in the first year of operation.

But while suicide has typically been viewed as a problem mainly among teenagers, more people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Mental illness plagues too many teenagers and suicide kills a lot of people,” Lindsay said. “I want this to be a pipeline for people to get help, and know that they’re not as alone and isolated as they feel.”

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