I belong from an underdeveloped country Nepal and in my country, there are still many places where people die of diarrhea and cholera due to the unavailability of medicines. So, one can easily imagine the status of mental health services in countries like such. If a teenage son tries to share his feelings of loneliness and depression to the family, he is asked not to roam his head around, and instead focus in study. When he tries to share his feelings with friends, they leave no stone unturned to make fun out of him. He becomes more lonely and degrades his mental health. What if, we can in any manner make youths aware of the fact that mental health exists and it is as important as physical health. What if, we can provide them psychiatric consultation within the reach of their fingertips in phones so that they can open up anonymously and without the fear of being judged up. Even the helpline numbers and other arrangements relating to mental health are not in reach of the targetted ones as they are not aware of that. So, realizing the reach of social media like Facebook among youngsters, we settled in the opinion to launch the platform on Facebook.
What it does
Our platform is built with the collaboration of psychiatrists and they have provided us a set of questionnaires that they put forward when any patient first comes to see them. And based on the replies of those questions, we are suggesting to them if they must see a psychiatrist or not. Our platform does two things, one, making youths aware that mental health exists and make them go on a trial test and the other if suspected to illness, provide them a way to fix an appointment with the psychiatrists near to them. We will have a pool of psychiatrists in our team who will provide the in-person or live session if needed. Also, various efforts of government like various mental health-related programs and toll-free emergency hotline numbers will be circulated through the platform.
How I built it
The platform is built using Wit.ai for natural language understanding and facebook-messenger-api to intergrate messenger with the Facebook page. A backend is built using Nodejs hosted in heroku. We will have a page named myMate in Facebook and where users can chat with the messenger bot freely. Also the page will be filled up posts that will help create mental health awareness.
Challenges I ran into
As I came to know about this hackathon lately, so it was quite a challenge to complete the task in so much short time. I have never heard of wit before, but it was easy enough to get a grasp at, particularly at the beginner level. Also due to the poor error handling applied in the platform, we ran into much trouble of debugging. Also native implementation of messenger-api was quite hard for me, so I chose bottender which had quite useful and to-the-point documentation.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Firstly I feel proud that I attempted to develop a solution that can positively impact millions of lives around. In this course, I have made contact with various MD psychiatrists from my country and asked for their help. Also, I came to know about this awesome wit.ai tool for natural language processing. I feel very proud to be competing with so many participants from across the world.
What I learned
I learnt how to use the facebook-messenger-api and various things that can be achieved using that. Also, I learnt about the awesome tool wit.ai that made understanding natural language so easy. I have implemented the messenger-bot for the first time.
What's next for myMate
Many things could be improved in myMate. I have only completed a flow for it in this hackathon. Many advanced features of messenger-platform like personas, push notification can be used to achieve various tasks like introducing a pyschiatrist in the chat, notifying users about the confirmation of their appointment date. We can also train wit.ai to better chat with the patient to give them more in-person psychiatrist feel rather than just throwing yes/no questionairres.