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Code Blue, an app to help teenagers experiencing depression

Code Blue, a simple app to help teenagers experiencing depression

Wellington start up Social Code, have come up with a simple concept aimed at helping teenagers with depression.

The inspiration came when two mothers using Social Code’s Goalpost app to quit smoking, asked if there was something similar to the panic button, for their teenagers struggling with depression. That provided enough encouragement for Social Code to look into a solution.

Social Code conducted research into why young people experiencing depression find it hard to reach out for help. Research suggests there are several reasons for this: they don’t recognise what they’re experiencing is depression; they feel ashamed and don’t want to admit they need help, or they don’t know who to reach out to. One thing came through clearly - they can’t always articulate what they are feeling yet desperately want help.

Code Blue is a simple smartphone app that acts as a mobile support crew. Designed to help young people get help when they most need it, it lets you select a support crew who, on receiving a ‘Code Blue’, will provide immediate support via text, phone, or by showing up.

Social Code sought feedback on the concept from youth mental health organisations in New Zealand, the US and UK and tested the idea on teenagers themselves.

Siobhan Bulfin, Social Code founder says the aim of the app is simple. “It’s not meant to be a solution for depression, but it may be a solution to providing immediate support at a critical time of need”.

“Depression is as much a sociological problem as it is clinical. It can be hard to ask for help, especially when you can’t describe what you're feeling. We want Code Blue to make it easy. By simply pushing a button on your phone your support crew is alerted and ready to help you immediately, no explanations required” says Siobhan.

Depression affects 1 in 6 New Zealanders and tends to hit young people the hardest with approximately one in seven people in New Zealand experiencing a major depressive disorder before the age of 24. Self-esteem generally develops in people between 12-20 years of age which means teenagers tend to lack the resilience to bounce back from life’s blows – including bullying. In an age where things like cyber-bullying often go unnoticed, this can leave them depressed and feeling worthless.

“We aren’t suggesting Code Blue is a solve-all solution, but we do think it could become a valuable tool to help young people reach out for help from people they trust, when feeling their worst. By building a prototype and testing it, we'll be able to improve it and potentially add in 0800 numbers or location-based support services” says Social Code’s Communications Manager, Sophie Gommans.

Not impervious to the irony that Code Blue is leveraging the very tools that can contribute to and enable bullying and depression, Bulfin says “This is an opportunity to use technology to help mitigate some of it’s adverse use”. She cites a quote from John Naisbitt author of High Tech, High Touch. “At best, technology supports and improves human life; at its worst, it alienates, isolates, distorts and destroys”.

Social Code has absorbed the cost of research, testing and design of Code Blue and have launched a crowd funding campaign to help raise US $25,000 to help fund the development of the app on iOS & Android so the prototype can go into real world testing.

Code Blue will be free for everyone, everywhere, always.

If you would like to donate or find out more, visit their Indiegogo campaign

About Social Code
Social Code is a Wellington start up company which has received international recognition for their patient engagement and behavior change platform leveraging social support, applied game design, tracking tools and professional advice.


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