This is a call to arms; and it’s probably the most important one I’ve made in all the time I’ve been pricking around on the internet. Hang with me for a sec.
I’ve been toying with an idea, and it’s developed into this: Crisis.
Crisis is an idea that came from – what else? – a personal mental health crisis I experienced last week. As I was touching the other side of it, I realised a few things that I hadn’t been able to realise in the fugue of trying to stop myself from doing some serious damage.
The first was that I wasn’t aware enough of the people I would normally contact to check if they were awake or available to distract me and help me through – it was early in the morning, and I made an assumption without even considering that it was the weekend, that I know a lot of people in the US and that there are several people who would very, very happily wake up if it would prevent me from hurting myself. I had no resource to refer to remind myself who these people were, and that I was worthwhile to them and should have contacted them.
The second was that at my state of mind as it was at 4am on Saturday morning, I was incapable of knowing what would make me feel better, what sort of advice I needed and where to reach out to if I got any worse. I had no stored collections, nothing that I could flick through blankly, all of the games that were my usual anxiety remedies were suddenly too stressful, and I didn’t know where to go from there.
On Saturday afternoon, I started putting together a list of people that I should contact if I reach that state again, and began thinking that this process should probably be automated – when I am in that crisis state my self-worth is so low that I don’t want to bother people, and that’s dangerous for me. I tried to plan a way to do this with a simple app on my phone. As the idea developed, I realised this would be useful for more people than just me. This would be useful for so, so many people.
And so the idea ran away with me. Let me explain Crisis to you, in the terms it currently exists, knowing it is still evolving and developing with every minute.
Crisis is an app for smartphones that tries to provide a resource for those experiencing a major drop in their mental health. It lets you select one of four crisis levels – with the option to escalate your crisis at any given time. The final option, “I am in immediate danger”, asks the user a few quick questions and then contacts the emergency services for them, sending an ambulance to their location and then giving them calm instructions for what to do next without them having to speak or convey complex explanations of their current mental state.
Whenever you activate Crisis, it sends a text to all (up to five) of your designated Crisis contacts, explaining which Crisis level you have activated and what they can do to help. If the app does not detect a reply to the user (either a message or a phonecall) within five minutes, it will ask you if you would like to nominate another Crisis contact, or if a contact has reached them through another means.
After contacting your designated Crisis assistants, Crisis then asks what kind of mental health problem you’re currently experiencing from a drop-down list and tailors the resources it provides you with to the level and condition the user has described. This is useful because those who are disassociative and those who are highly anxious often need different things to help them tame their unwanted thoughts.
Crisis is NOT a repackaging app. The most unhelpful thing for an app of this type to do would be to repackage advice from the NHS or the larger mental health charities. Those with mental health difficulties are not stupid and do not deserve to be patronised. Crisis provides advice tailored to the situation, including a “danger box” that users are advised to put all of their medication and other triggery or potentially dangerous possessions into, with an open padlock on which a trusted person has the key to. If Crisis level 2 or above is activated, Crisis prompts the user to close the padlock on the box to prevent harm to the user.
Crisis is designed to have a “Notes” feature, where your Crisis contacts can leave their feelings about you for you to look at when you feel low or worthless. These can be either voice recordings or messages. It brings all the love of the people around you into one place for you to see, without having to search for it or feel it might have been erased by time.
Crisis contains a store of images that are comforting and often gentle; an option to underlay the whole app experience with soft white noise like rain or ocean waves; and several activities designed to be soothing, simple and to relieve stress.
Crisis is intended to have a simple and soothing appearance, especially designed for those who feel easily overwhelmed by bright colours, movement or complex UIs. After initial set-up, Crisis is designed to ask as few questions as possible and not overload users with information. It presents simple, easy screens that users can click through easily at their own pace, with a constant “My crisis is worsening” button at the bottom of the screen so users can escalate to the next level of support.
Crisis in its initial design is only going to be accessible for people in the UK, but this is not optimal and would need to expand considerably.
This is an outline, and this is so far, only an idea and some raw code designed by a very, very, very kind front-end dev. This needs to grow. This needs to reach the rest of the world.
This is where you come in. This is the call to arms. Crisis is a good idea, and is an idea that can and will save lives if it can get there. But at the moment, it only has a few people, and only my ideas to bounce on. At the moment, we’re looking for volunteers in all the following fields. If you are able to contribute anything at all, or know someone who could, please, please email email@example.com.
Crisis needs someone to co-ordinate a backend to make sure the app runs smoothly and is able to carry out all of its supportive tasks without putting any pressure on the user. My experience in back-end development is incredibly limited and whilst if we can’t find anyone I will attempt to use my dusty Ruby knowledge to co-ordinate this, Crisis will be faster, better and with the people who need it sooner if someone with more expertise is able to devote some of their time to it.
Whilst we are unable to pay for development work, we will pay for any costs incurred helping the development of Crisis and will provide a glowing reference for your CV or future work prospects. As this isn’t an employment prospect, I understand entirely that other work will take precedence and we appreciate any help or time you can give us, even if you can’t develop the whole back-end for us. We would be happy to take on several developers to share the work amongst them.
Crisis needs someone to design the UI for the app on both iOS and Android. The UI is extremely important, as outlined above, and whilst I have experience of this, again, someone with a better proficiency for it would speed up the process and make the UI and necessary components of it much more suited to the audience, and on a better timescale. Examples of previous work would be appreciated with your email so we can make sure that if we build a team, their styles work well together. If this is not possible, please email anyway. I know full well the difficulties of trying to join projects without a portfolio handy.
As above: Whilst we are unable to pay for design work, we will pay for any costs incurred helping the development of Crisis and will provide a glowing reference for your CV or future work prospects. As this isn’t an employment prospect, I understand entirely that other work will take precedence and we appreciate any help or time you can give us, even if you can’t design the whole UI for us. We would be happy to take on several designers to share the work amongst them.
Whilst this isn’t an immediate need, Crisis needs testers for this app, both those who do experience Mental Health crises and those who don’t. Those who do will be testing the app for accessibility and ease of use, and those who do not will be making sure everything works in the way it should by testing all of the features as much as they can (and trying to break them!). Previous testing experience is not necessary – just a devotion to the cause we’re trying to promote.
If you are willing to be a tester, please include your device type in your email and whether or not you are a MH tester.
Finally, what the world revolves around: money. I’d love to be able to pour everything I’ve got into this app, but everything I’ve got is a bunch of student debt and a meagre Maternity Allowance payment every month. In order for this project to reach as wide an audience as possible, we will need to fund servers, hosting, a licence to develop for the Apple Store and a not-for-profit business licence in order to get the developer’s licence. If you can spare anything, even pence, it will not be wasted. Every penny will go towards making this app as widespread and as helpful as possible, and any money that is leftover when the app is finished will be donated to the mental health charity Mind, who helped me and countless others through many a mental health crisis. Please share this link around, and see if we can stir up a real movement for this.
As the product develops, other vacancies will become available and there will be an update for those interested.
If you have any ideas that I haven’t stated in this blogpost, PLEASE email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. Let’s crowdsource this shit.
The internet has saved my life a thousand times. Let’s use it to save a thousand more for each of those times.