Inspiration

According to the statistics of the WHO, an estimated 800,000 people commit suicide per year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Suicide happens to be the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds. Suicidal thoughts are generally caused by mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bi polar disorder and schizophrenia. While some may have the capability of dealing with these problems on their own, a lot of people find it very difficult to lead a normal life with mental illnesses hindering their day today life style. The biggest reason why mental illnesses lead to suicidal thoughts is people's reluctance to convey what they feel to another person.

A motivational chat-bot provides the ideal solution to this problem, since it allows people to discuss their issues anonymously. Considering the fact that young people are greatly affected by mental health issues, a technological solution might be the best approach to deal with the issue. Suicide Prevention & Motivational Life Companion of Project Yalk is the best friend for anyone who wishes to anonymously discuss his/her problems with someone, and requires motivational support.

What it does

Project Yalk is a non profit organisation formed to help people with mental health problems. Yalk chat-bot provides motivation for people who are going through difficult periods in life. Please note that Project Yalk is still in beta version and it is still learning how best to provide support for people with mental health issues. Currently the chat-bot is running with limited functionalities and responding only for limited queries.

There are three ways to communicate with Yalk. One is through our website or else you can use messenger in Project Yalk Facebook page. Third way is to use our Alexa skill.

How I built it

I primarily used the AWS server-less (lambda) and AWS Lex to build the Yalk chat-bot. And also Amazon Alexa to build Alexa skill.

Challenges I ran into

The greatest challenge was training the chat-bot to such an extent, that it responded with sensible answers to questions by the user. The Yalk chat-bot still needs to be improved in this aspect, which I intend to focus on in the future.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

From previous projects that I have done, I feel humbly proud of the opportunity I got to represent my country at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in 2008, for building a retractable stair case. I was awarded the Herbert Hoover Presidential Award for Young Engineers for the same invention. Furthermore, in year 2014, I won the mBillionth Awards South Asia 2014 for the best mEducation and learning Application.

I hope that the Yalk chat-bot would help millions of people with mental disabilities. If that becomes a success, it would undoubtedly be my greatest achievement so far.

What I learned

Building the Yalk chat-bot provided me with extensive practical knowledge of using AWS products. Furthermore, the basic research I needed to do regarding mental health problems in order to build this product, has helped me to expand my knowledge in that aspect.

What's next for Project Yalk

Yalk chat-bot needs to be extensively trained to provide the ideal guidance and support for people with mental illnesses. The functionalities of the chat-bot are required to be further improved to respond to the many complex queries by the users effectively.

Furthermore, we are planning to remove Facebook messenger integration from our website to provide more anonymous user experience in future. Our vision is to provide more accurate mentoring and guidance to minimize suicide attempts in people with mental health issues.

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