Inspiration

Going home for winter break and seeing friends was a great time, but throughout all the banter, I realized that our conversations often took a darker turn, and I worried for my friends' mental health. During the school year, it was a busy time and I wasn't able to stay in touch with my friends as well as I had wanted to. After this realization, I also began to question my own mental health - was I neglecting my health?

We were inspired to build a web app that would increase awareness about how friends were doing mentally that could also provide analytics for ourselves. We thought there was good potential in text due to the massive volumes of digital communication and how digital messages can often reveal some the that may be hidden in everyday communication.

What it does

It parses user text input into a sentiment score, using Microsoft Azure, where 0 is very negative and 1 is very positive. Over a day, it averages the input for a specific user and logs the text files. Friends of the user can view the weekly emoji graphs, and receive a text message if it seems like the user is going through a rough spot and needs someone to talk to.

We also have an emoji map for displaying sentiments of senders around the world, allowing us to see events that invoke emotional responses in a particular area. We hope that this is useful data for increased global and cultural awareness.

How we built it

We used React.js for the front-end and used Flask with Python for the backend. We used Azure for the sentiment analysis and Twillio to send text messages.

Challenges we ran into

One of the biggest bottlenecks was connecting our front-end and back-end. Additionally, we had security concerns regarding cross origin resource sharing that made it much more difficult to interface with all the different databases. We had too many APIs that we wanted to connect that made things difficult too.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We were able to create a full-stack app web app on our own, despite the challenges. Some of the members of the team had never worked on front-end before and it was a great, fun experience learning how to use JS, Flask, and HTML.

What we learned

We learned about full stack web app development and the different languages required. We also became more aware of the moving parts behind a web app, how they communicate with each other, and the challenges associated with that.

What's next for ment.ally

Our original idea was actually a Chrome extension that could detect emotionally charged messages the user types in real-time and offer alternatives in an attempt to reduce miscommunication potentially hurtful to both sides. We would like to build off of our existing sentiment analysis capabilities to do this. Our next step would be to set up a way to parse what the user is typing and underline any overly strong phrases (similar to how Word underlines misspelt words in red). Then we could set up a database that maps some common emotionally charged phrases with some milder ones and offers those as suggestions, possibly along with the reason (e.g. "words in this sentence can trigger feelings of anger!).

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