Mental wellness toolkit wants to keep its users Appy

Mental wellness toolkit wants to keep its users Appy
KeepAppy co-founders Aimée-Louise Carton and Will Ben Sims for Monday's feature. Aimée-Louise Carton with Aura and Will Ben Sims.

An Irish mental wellness app which aims to help users to take control of their mental health has been launched on Kickstarter.

KeepAppy is a wellness toolkit focused on increased self-awareness and behavioural techniques, and its features include mood and sleep trackers, journaling, goal-setting, and pill reminders.

The app, which launched on the crowdfunding platform last week, raised 30% of its funding target in the first three days of the campaign.

The project evolved from co-founder Aimée Louise Carton’s experience with mental illness.

She says her first memory of feeling ‘unlovable’ was at the tender age of eight, but she hid her struggles for many years. She was later diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

An assault later in life left her with post-traumatic stress disorder and she subsequently developed suicidal ideation.

“Unfortunately, when I was just 23, I wasn’t able to hide it anymore,” she said.

She had studied sociology at TCD, and a masters in politics in Amsterdam, and been accepted onto an internship programme in Brussels when “it all came crashing down around me”.

“Thankfully, somewhere in the haze of my darkness, I decided to call a helpline”, she said describing how her dog was the catalyst to her recovery.

She took a year out of work to heal and became impatient at the slow pace of recovery.

“And because I’m a millennial the first thought I had was to go onto the App Store to find an app to help me,” she said. However, every app she found was to do with meditation.

Her doctors had advised her to practice goal setting, mood tracking, and ‘gratitude journaling’ and realised she would have to download seven or eight apps for what she needed.

Returning to TCD for a masters in entrepreneurship, she joined a group project called KeepAppy through Enactus — the international organisation helping students to create social change in their communities.

The team won the University of San Diego’s GlobalSocial Innovation Challenge in 2018 for its project and some seed funding.

Her team members leftthe project to pursue other studies or careers but Ms Carton continued with the idea of a wellness app, bringing classmate Will Ben Sims on board as a co-founder.

Given the prevalence of mental illness — the World Health Organisation estimates one in four people will have a mental illness — Ms Carton wonders if the stigma is the reason few know about mental wellness.

She says we learn to take care of our physical health at school. “We do PE, we do biology, but it’s only when we reached a crisis point that we learn how to take care of our mental health,” she says.

KeepAppy’s business model as a TechForGoodsocial enterprise matches subscriptions on a one-to-one basis with a donation of the app through its partnerships with mental health helplines in Ireland, the UK, US, Canada, as well as Australia.

An additional feature to come with the full version of the app early next year is gaming.

The ‘Keepie’ avatar was inspired by Ms Carton’s dog Aura.

The bad days she struggled to get out of bed or shower, her dog’s need for care motivated her to take care of herself.

She recognised that care of virtual pets “was a clever way to encourage people to engage in wellbeing techniques every day”.

“We want to encourage people not just to feel okay, but to feel happy,” she says.

Following reports of apps selling user data to retail companies, Ms Carton says KeepAppy puts user privacy at its core.

The app uses heavy encryption, and most of the data is stored on the user’s phone rather than on the app.

Currently participating in LaunchBox accelerator, which comes with funding of €10,000, KeepAppy has also received support from the Dublin Business Innovation Centre.

The company will also represent Ireland in the Enactus World Cup in Silicon Valley this September.

It will be launched as a paid app, with eight out of10 features, in late August and a full launch in January.

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