These past few months have unveiled us with a shocking realization of how our world(-s) can change extremely quickly. Millions of people are already suffering losses, yet we don’t know when this fight against the virus will be over. The pandemic brought even more uncertainty into our lives and made us question our reality. This period has made a huge impact on people’s mental health – the part which was not thriving before. Facing the global crisis herself, Ieva Vaitkeviciute, together with a team of specialists, developed a mobile app Act on Crisis. Her mission – to assist people in getting emotional support during any tough time. Ieva is sharing behind the scenes of the app idea and why mental health should be the top priority in our society.
Your emotional support mobile app is called Act on Crisis (AOC). Why taking action is so important when a big crisis threatens our society? Could you describe the action your developed app aims at taking or rather is encouraging the others to take?
It’s still common in society to turn to emotional health in the face of personal crisis. When urging to act, we want to revolutionize the health sector by providing alternative ways to reach wellness services. Promote social change, and destigmatize the way society perceives this topic.
A lot of people take care of their physical health regularly but often forget about the emotional one. We encourage people to join a mental gym. Which encourages daily care of emotional hygiene and helps to maintain a positive emotional balance.
In this way, they can keep their mind fit daily. The same way they do with their bodies, wherever they happen to be. With AOC, users can train their minds individually, with the community. Or a professional ‘1 on 1’ support, and based on tracked data improve over time.
We encourage people to join a mental gym. Which encourages daily care of emotional hygiene and helps to maintain a positive emotional balance.
The idea of your app has won second place among more than a thousand projects from 100 countries in The Global Hack. Congratulations on that! Have only this success in the hackathon, in addition to the extraordinary situation in the world, making your app possible?
I have been interested in mental health for a long time. I have a background in psychology and have been carrying the idea with me for several years. The success at The Global Hack was a confirmation that the idea creates value. I am glad that we have succeeded in creating a tool that allows us to bring people together. And meanwhile, contribute towards a positive change in society. Of course, that wouldn’t be possible without a talented team, mentors, supporters, and volunteers. We continue to work together to improve the AOC app continually.
During these challenging times, it might seem to be easier to draw people together, especially for a meaningful cause. Was it difficult to form a team around your idea?
Our team consists of 6 psychology, IT, digital marketing, and communication specialists living and working in Lithuania, Norway, and Germany. I’ve reached out to my connections via social media during the first hackathon, calling for partners in crime. Not only we continue working together, but we have new hands joining us from time to time as well. Two months later, working 100% remotely, we grew into a mental gym. And I am happy we are still all working together. I think what keeps us together is the fact that we all share the same values. Wanting to make a meaningful impact, and relate to the topic.
Sadly, there is still a prevailing stigma surrounding the topic of mental health. Do you think it is because of the lack of knowledge? Or do you see any other essential reasons in this respect?
Sadly, but the stigma surely exists. One reason might be the lack of awareness and education. But the other is the perception of the information that we do have available. Strong mental health isn’t just the absence of mental illness. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
Having solid mental health doesn’t mean that you never go through bad times or experience emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress. But just as physically healthy people are better able to bounce back from illness or injury, people with strong mental health are better able to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience. And this is exactly what we want to help people develop while training with AOC App.
Fortunately, we’ve made some progress in destigmatizing mental illness during the past decade. We’re talking more about mental health issues, and our eyes are opening to the fact that we’re all vulnerable.
Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues.
Before the Coronavirus hit our world(-s), people had never lived better in the whole history. Yet the condition of mental health had been becoming worse every year. In your opinion, what factors do mainly influence this?
Numerous studies show rising anxieties due to social media, economic crisis, ongoing socio-economic tension, global warming resulting in huge changes and fear over our future.
We may have never lived better, but we’ve surely never lived faster! This is one of the main challenges. And one of the leading causes of stress, anxiety, and many other mental health-related issues. Numerous studies show rising anxieties due to social media, economic crisis, ongoing socio-economic tension, global warming resulting in huge changes and fear over our future. Also, the tendency of greed in people’s lives – the more you have, the more you want. Which in turn leads to unfulfilled expectations.
What’s your personal experience during the quarantine? Has it made you look at things from a different perspective?
Forced to remain under lockdown resulted in celebrating my birthday completely alone. Even with my background in psychology, I got crushed completely. It surely gave me a new perspective towards the togetherness and value of simple human connection when in crisis. Moreover, it taught me how little we need when it comes to surviving. And how the most important things are not something one can touch (people over things).
Coronavirus crisis one day will be over. How do you see the future of your app after it?
Prior to the pandemic, Harvard Medical School reported millennials being 30% more likely to experience mental health problems, compared to other generations.
We are positive that the AOC app will become even more relevant in the post-pandemic future. International labor organization prognoses 195mln people becoming unemployed due to pandemic by the end of this year (read more here). Before the pandemic, Harvard Medical School reported millennials being 30% more likely to experience mental health problems, compared to other generations (read more here). 50% of them used to leave their jobs because of it. Millennials value physical fitness, yet still don’t know how to keep their mind in shape. Mental health influences how you think, feel and behave in daily life. It also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships, and recover from life’s setbacks and hardships. We are confident, AOC app is valuable in building one’s mental strength even after COVID-19.