After caretaking for years for an ex who went bipolar, I became severely depressed. I luckily had a strong support network of loving friends. When I finally could talk about my depression, many friends who had the same issue came forward. I knew what could help because I had gone through it, but many other people don't.

What it does

This app reminds the well-meaning loved ones of a victim of depression to check in, and possibly intervene to prevent a larger breakdown. If a group chat goes stale (7 days by default, configurable via chatbot), it suggests things to do with the victim and brings the chat back to the top of the supporters' chat lists.

How I built it

After attempting to use twilio, nexmo, and plivo for group MMS texts (to reach an older audience, like mothers and fathers who might not be on smartphones), I ended up making a chatbot on Facebook Messages.

Challenges I ran into

Group MMS is an extremely old protocol that twilio/nexmo/plivo have decided is a market with insufficient demand to support its carrier-specific fragmented system. That took some time to find out.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

This magnifies the positive energies of people who want to support their loved ones, who are well-meaning but might legitimately have something come up and forget to keep in touch. It also helps close friends stay in touch - technology for human connection instead of endlessly consuming attention.

What I learned

MMS group texts are terrible. Facebook chat bots are cumbersome, but they work.

What's next for LettuceChat

More design, a landing page, patient/caregiver roles, specific reminders to caregivers, analysis of patient's texts to identify depressive behavior (shorter messages / fewer messages?)

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