2020 was a historical year that left an impact on us all. The BLM protests in America started a global movement, and brought much needed conversations about police brutality and the lack of community resources to the table. It shed light on flaws in policing systems not only in the United States, but in Canada as well. Since the year 2000, there have been over 416 fatal encounters with the RCMP. A CBC analysis reveals that more than 70 per cent of victims suffer from mental health and substance abuse problems. This made us think. What other resources and forms of support can people suffering from these causes make use of? How can they access them in a way that is safe and that would encourage them to contact again? That's how we came up with Helping Hand. Our mission is to provide a gateway to multiple government-standard helplines and community resources, notably in the areas of:
- Mental health crises
- Sexual assault
- Family violence/issues
People in mental health crisis, victims of sexual assault, and family violence are less likely to be comfortable calling the police and may not seek help. They may even be uncomfortable with speaking to a real person on the phone, but Helping Hand is a great anonymous, judgement-free service. Our service is especially useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, since people can get help without any in-person contact.
Helping Hand seeks to bridge the gap by guiding people in crisis to community services. Sometimes, a social worker or mental health specialist can better assist you than a police officer. Our mission is to provide a tool that not only provides real time guidance to users, but also direct them to alternative resources or emergency responders if they need. We're here to lend a helping hand, whilst spreading awareness about what other support forms are available in our communities.
What it does
Helping Hand is a voice-automated service that provides assistance in non-emergency situations. Through interactive voice-feedback, it provides step by step guidance to users, helping them manage their situation and letting them know what steps to take from there. For example, someone who has experienced sexual assault may use Helping Hand to better understand their situation and the options available to them. Helping Hand will provide immediate information on how to safely remove yourself from the situation, how to properly report the situation, and follow-up measures on how to get tested for STIs and access a rape kit. If the victim specifies that their health or safety is in immediate danger, Helping Hand will direct them to the proper authorities. The main focus of Helping Hand is to provide more information on what a victim's options and what steps must be taken on their end to best help them in their situation.
How we built it
We used Notion for all of our research and project planning, and then implemented Helping Hand using VoiceFlow.
Another challenge we ran into was learning how to use VoiceFlow. None of us had any experience with it, so after we had all of our options mapped out we had to learn how to actually implement our ideas effectively.
What we learned
We learned how to use VoiceFlow to create interactive voice apps.
Challenges we ran into
At first, we had a great difficulty deciding what questions would make the most sense to ask first. This was important to us because if someone is in crisis, having to sit through unnecessary questions would be frustrating. We solved this by looping/re-suggesting certain questions at a later time if the choice path implied it was more unlikely, so the user would get more relevant suggestions first. Another challenge we ran into was learning how to use VoiceFlow. None of us had any experience with it, so after we had all of our options mapped out we had to learn how to actually implement our ideas effectively.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud of the depth and breadth of tough situations we were able to cover while keeping our suggestions consistent with what was recommended by the government and other reputable sources.
What's next for Helping Hand
Next, we would like to integrate location-specific resources using Google Places API so that people could be directed to local hospitals or police stations. We would also like to expand our support network to include minor first aid advice as well as help for substance abuse.
We disclaim that our pitch video includes footage from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3TxtA2YMJc.