The people in a teen’s inner circle are often the best resource when a young person is struggling. Knowing how to reach out is a crucial first step. Hannah Lucas is a 15-year-old making a major impact with an app that allows users to ask for help with the touch of a button. Co-created with her 13-year-old brother, Charlie, the notOK app automatically sends a GPS location to up to five pre-selected contacts along with a text message that reads: Hey, I’m not OK. Please call me, text me, or come find me.
As teens often feel more comfortable connecting through their phones, the notOK app is a valuable resource for anyone who suffers from loneliness, depression, suicidal thoughts, or other stressful situations.
Two years ago, Hannah missed 70 percent of her freshman year due to Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS, a rare condition that causes spontaneous fainting. She was repeatedly bullied for being “the sick kid” and became severely depressed.
“I was always terrified to do anything,” Hannah says. “I constantly lived in a state of anxiety. At those moments in my life, I wished I had an app where I could press a button and instantly notify my friends and family that I was not OK. I told my brother about it and he started working on it the next day.”
“Whenever Hannah was sick, I couldn’t do anything,” Charlie laments. “But when she told me about the app, I knew this was one thing I could do to help. So I immediately started wire-framing the prototype version.”
Now Hannah regularly uses the app. “I’ve been managing my symptoms for a while now, so whenever I get an ‘uh oh’ moment, it takes a quick three or four seconds to get my phone out and press the button before I pass out. The GPS location is probably the most important thing for me so people know where I am.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 49.5 percent of adolescents between the ages 13 to 18 have a mental or emotional disorder. The notOK app allows teens in crisis to immediately seek help when they are feeling vulnerable.
“On the Twitter and Instagram sites, I’m constantly getting positive feedback from users who love the app,” Hannah says.
Charlie uses the app as well. “I have panic attacks and they aren’t fun. So I whip out my phone, press the button, and my friends or my mom contact me. The notOK app takes the guesswork out of asking for help.”
A highly acclaimed success
Launched in January, 2018, the notOK app has gained massive attention with over 49,000 downloads in just the first three months. It has won the 2018 MHA mPower Award and the 2018 NAMI Young Leader Award and scored its first investor. Motivated to be of service, Hannah and Charlie are enthusiastically expanding the notOK app to include different languages and other countries. Hannah says it best: “It’s a freeing feeling, knowing you’re not alone.”