The right words of reassurance or encouragement can go a long way towards improving one’s mood on a bad day. With Northbrooks Secondary School’s app – Empowering Youths in Mental Health, users will have access to a library of motivational quotes, as well as a questionnaire that gauges their mental state. Based on the user’s mood, it gently nudges those in need of help towards mental health resources – such as Impart Singapore, a non-profit organisation that supports youth in dealing with mental health issues and equips them with coping strategies.
Said team member Muhammad Irfanshah Bin Abdul Kareem, 15: “We know that some youths are very reluctant to seek help as they feel embarrassed by their situation, so we created an app that would empower them to make the decision to seek help on their own.”
The team from the school’s Infocomm Media Club had already been learning how to code as part of their co-curricular activity, so it made sense for them to develop an app for their project submission for the Infocomm Media Club Youth Awards. Initially, they considered building a mobile game, but inexperience in that area was an obstacle. In the end, they landed on the questionnaire-driven approach as a means of detecting early symptoms of mental health issues and providing avenues of help for youth.
Mohamad Shah Idzwan Bin Mohd Isa, 15, said that working on the project taught him a new coding language, Swift, in addition to the two he already knew. “Swift is a bit trickier to work with,” he shared. “You have to make sure that everything is coded properly – if not, the entire app won’t work at all.”
Besides learning to use Swift, Irfan also gained a better understanding of mental health from researching the app’s content. “It gave me a deeper insight into the importance of mental health, and how we can take better care of our own well-being,” he shared.
In building their app, the team of four – which included teammates Royton Tok and Muhammad Rafie Bin Fauzi, both 15 – encountered some hiccups, such as technical difficulties with the iPads they worked on. “There were only two iPads which the app was able to work on,” recounted Irfan. “With the others, the code didn’t register at all. So, if I was working on the code, I had to call the others to explain what I was doing – which was extremely challenging as they weren’t able to see what I was doing or if I was doing anything wrong.”
Idzwan added that their app had an unfortunate tendency to keep crashing – often due to a minor spelling error or typo in the code, which meant they all had to scan the entire block of code line by line to locate the error. Even so, the team managed to overcome the odds to win a Distinction award in the Tech category. The experience also reinforced their love for coding as well as their desire to learn even more in the future.
While Irfan enjoys the freedom of designing features and functions to his exact liking through code, it is the sense of accomplishment that keeps Idzwan going. “Coding is really fun,” said Idzwan. “It feels satisfying for me to write a code, and when it actually works, that makes me very happy.”