Most people who struggle with a mental illness have - at one time or another - been blamed for their condition. They can feel avoided, isolated, and ostracized during some of their toughest times. While mental illness reaches far and wide, affecting 1 in every 5 adults in the United States alone, the negative stigma surrounding it causes people to feel ashamed of something that is out of their control (NAMI). Ultimately, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need.

Many experts believe that this stigma arises from the disconnect and miscommunication between neurotypical and atypical people. The term “neurotypical” describes people without a mental illness while “atypical” describes people diagnosed with a mental illness. According to Unite for Sight, “people with mental illnesses are less likely to finish high school, enter college, or start a career. They also show an increase risk at poverty.” Family members and caregivers experience chronic stress and heavy financial costs. Overall, the disconnect shows a divide and weakened community of neurotypicals and atypicals.

Now the question being raised is: “What are people doing to help?” Currently, there are a couple of mobile applications that aim to help people with mental illnesses by tracking mood, supporting a journaling system, and allowing users to chat with professionals. While these applications have unique features, there is no current mobile application that targets both neurotypical and atypical people.

What it does

Our solution is a new mobile application, Neuron, that will provide users the ability to connect with others, gain valuable insight, and share personal, mental health relatel. We believe that the best way to end the harsh stigma surrounding mental illness is by diminishing the disconnect between neurotypical and atypical people alike. Educating everyone, not just those diagnosed, ensures that everyone understands each other and allowing atypical and neurotypical people to begin taking steps towards recovery together. The mobile application Neuron was designed specifically for this purpose. Just like its name, Neuron strives to connect the two groups through dialogue and communication. In turn, this will diminish the ambiguity encompassing mental illness, ultimately diminishing the stigma that surrounds it.

With much thought we concluded that the most effective process to connect both atypical and neurotypical people is through a mobile application platform. This allows the user to have easy access to the platform whenever necessary, be it on the bus, waiting in line or just before bed. Furthermore, a mobile application is a very simplified and clear-cut tool. As mentioned above, mental illness is both complex and puzzling, having a clear and simple tool to learn about the topic allows users to be one step closer to making mental illnesses understandable.

Neuron is an application platform that allows users easily and effortlessly share their personal stories about mental illness with others on the app. Therapist Lois Hartman noted during an interview that “journaling is a great technique for dealing with mental illnesses or overwhelming emotions”. People can comment and message other users with direct questions or kind, uplifting comments - all with the purpose of bridging the disconnect and creating a safe space to converse.

This application will ultimately foster a community of understanding between neurotypicals and atypicals. Millions of people in the United States have a diagnosable mental illness, and even millions more have a close friend or loved one with a mental illness whom they actively support (NAMI). While mental illness is a broad and sensitive topic to tackle, we believe that Neuron is the first step in the right direction to initiate diminishing the stigma surrounding mental health.

How we built it

To build the app we used ionic framework in visual studio. The app was broken down into various classes (pages), and each page had a corresponding CSS, HTML, and TS file. Furthermore, to create dynamic features like a scrolling bar or a linked button, we created objects for those.

Challenges we ran into

We ran into many challenges. Our first challenge was downloading node.js properly. One of our team members couldn't type in any commands with npm because she installed it twice, and didn't delete the old files. Another challenge was creating our chat page - the SCSS code wasn't recognized and created an unknown bug that we couldn't diagnose. Lastly, creating the backend was the most difficult challenge we experienced. We did not know where to start, since we've never stored data before. Ultimately, one of our team members tried to work on the backend and it did not end up working - however, with all these challenges, we learned so much!

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are so proud of creating this app - which attempts to bring awareness to mental health, especially on a college campus. Even if we don't win, we are so excited about the impact that this app can make in today's world.

What we learned

We learned about node.js, ionic framework, Android Studio, HTML5, TypeScript files, and how to work in a team!

What's next for Neuron

We will finish developing the app to ensure it reaches its full potential. All the functionalities and specs we would have loved to finish before this submission will be done for sure!

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