As we navigate through the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing awareness of the importance in taking care of our mental health. With the inability to physically interact with friends and families or the stress of those directly impacted by the economic downfall, isolation and lockdown continue to exacerbate the mental health crisis.

One simple yet important thing to do is to stay connected with yourself and open up about your mental state. Journaling online is a healthy way to release emotional baggage and negativity, and can help people take care of their mental health during this isolation period.

In order to do so, we want to create a website that encourages users to start journaling today. My Safe Space provides an online platform for users to write down about their experiences with issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, and so on. We think that journaling online to open up about our emotional baggage is an important step in taking care of our mental health.

What it does

My Safe Space provides an online platform for users to create daily journal entries where they are free to talk about issues like anxiety, depression, stress, and any negative emotions that may have appeared in this difficult time. Users can sign up or log into the platform to write new and access old journal entries, which can help them track their progress in overcoming the mental and emotional pressure from the pandemic.

The website features a my diary page which encourages users to not only think about the problem but to find ways in identifying the solutions. It also features an information page that provides users with ways to practice self-care and improve mental health while being in isolation, as well as the reason why taking care of your mental health is important.

How we built it

The process started with discussions and brainstorming ideas until we settled with creating a website that provides a safe space for people all around the world to talk about their mental health, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic. We then created a simple wireframe sketch with details that we want to develop later in the process.

With 4 team members from different coding backgrounds, we had a team meeting beforehand and divided our roles including backend development (SQL), frontend development (JSP, CSS), script making and video, and submission. We created a full-stack website with Java, JSP, CSS, and SQL with Netbeans 8.2 IDE. The team used GitHub desktop repository to share the code simultaneously between the four team members who were working remotely.

Two people were mainly responsible for the software development, taking turns in building the look of the website. Two other people were mainly responsible for the submission, while in the process learning and reading about the technical matters.

Challenges we ran into

A main challenge was simply navigating our way around the hackathon. This is the first hackathon for all four of us and 75% of the team are beginner coders with limited experience on creating a website. This made it difficult to go through the process of figuring out what kind of product best suits our skills and experience. Time management was also an issue as 2 of the team members are in a different timezone and are quite busy with final exams and work. We also came into this hackathon with a mindset to learn, as we understand that finishing the project would be very difficult given the limited time and skills that our team has. We were also unfamiliar with the push and pull format of GitHub which made it difficult to coordinate during the website development. However, we believe that despite facing many challenges, we found what we were looking for: which is a learning experience for all of us.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Several notable accomplishments during the hack was being able to learn how to make buttons, forms, and navigation bars in HTML, for the front end person. Additionally, she was very proud with the chat room function that she just learned how to make it in a short period of time. We also managed to create tables and organize the users journal entries. Moreover, being able to use NetBeans and integrate our code and running it. Using GitHub desktop effectively to share code simultaneously for the first time was a small accomplishment as we learned how to work effectively as a group.

What we learned

In general, we learned a lot about how hackathons work and what we can prepare more if we decide to join any future hackathons. In terms of building the website itself, we learned more about programming with Java, JSP, CSS, and SQL with Netbeans 8.2 IDE. Previously, we also had an idea to create a website using APIs and despite not carrying on with that idea we learned a lot about how to use API from our research. For one of our team members, this is also a first time in creating a website so the whole process was a learning experience too.

What's next for My Safe Space

With more time, we want to try and finish building the website so that we could really provide the mental health support needed for people during this COVID-19 pandemic. We also plan to expand the website using chat rooms where users can also connect to a licensed therapist and caring listeners to get more professional, confidential, and helpful support. If possible, we would also like to develop an app so that these chat rooms are more easily accessible for users.

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posted an update

At first we wanted to create a chatting website for people who have problem with mental health. However, since no one in my team is familiar with coding (javascript), we decided not to do because we didn't have enough time to learn a new language. Thus, we changed the function to create a diary.

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