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Someone to talk to: Young Vietnamese launch mental health app to support peers

Friday, August 07, 2020, 12:29 GMT+7
Someone to talk to: Young Vietnamese launch mental health app to support peers
The four-member team behind the Shareapy app, which landed amongst the top ten at Google's Solution Challenge 2020 competition. Photo: Cong Nhat / Tuoi Tre

Shareapy connects users with strangers willing to listen to their personal problems and offer emotional support. 

The app, developed by a team of undergraduate students from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (UT), beat out entrants representing 800 universities from 60 countries to place amongst the top ten winners in the Google-backed Solution Challenge 2020 competition.

The team’s showing marks the highest ever ranking a Vietnamese group has achieved in the annual contest, designed to seek out solutions to local community issues using Google products and platforms.  

Young people deserve to be heard

“The contest’s goal is to find solutions to local community problems and we wanted to use it as an opportunity to raise community awareness of mental health,” said Nguyen Thanh Nhan, a third-year computer science major at UT and member of Shareapy’s developer team.

In the same vein, Tran Lam Bao Khang and Vo Ngoc Khanh Linh, both industrial management sophomores at UT, shared their belief that young people need to prioritize their mental health.

“As young people ourselves, we fully understand the problems faced by our generation. Most current apps available on the market only aim to satisfy material needs, not emotional ones,” Khang and Linh explained.  

As members of UT’s Google Developer Students Club, the trio, along with computer science major Nguyen Dang Huy, looked to use the competition as a way to make a difference in the lives of their peers.

Their efforts resulted in Shareapy — an app that allows users to share personal problems with strangers by creating a community centered on ‘one-way’ sympathy, referring to a culture of showing support without criticism or judgment.  

“We still have a lot of work we need to do in order to address the needs of our users. Next, we'll need to find a way to enlist the help of doctors and mental health professionals,” the team said.

“In the meantime, we are trying our best to refine the app. We plan to launch a test for our users that will assess their mental health condition and offer detailed and useful suggestions.” 

The team also admitted that learning the psychology and technology jargon they needed to create the app was another hurdle they had to overcome in the beginning phases of their project.

Still, they remained committed.

Because of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the team was forced to cancel a trip to Google's headquarters in California, the U.S. this year, which would have offered them an invaluable opportunity to exchange ideas with industry experts.

But they hope to continue improving their app.

An ‘insider's perspective’

The connection the four-team members have to the app extends just beyond being developers. 

Experiencing mental health issues themselves, they hope to offer an ‘insider's perspective’ to their peers.

Linh shared that when depression first hit her at the end of high school, she found solace in journaling and speaking with others about her feelings.

Such personal connections to mental health issues were all the inspiration the team needed to take on the struggle of balancing school and app development.  

“When we first launched the app, the social distancing measures meant to curb the COVID-19 pandemic were in place so we couldn’t meet in person. We had to move all our meetings online instead,” the team shared.

“But it turned out that online meetings were more convenient for us because we didn’t have to waste time traveling and it allowed us to be more flexible about our schedules.”

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Kim Thoa - Cong Nhat / Tuoi Tre News

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