The Inspiration: One night last March, Hannah Lucas, 17, hit rock bottom. She was having fainting spells that her doctors couldn’t explain. On top of that, she had dark feelings she just couldn’t shake. Scared, hopeless, and alone, she wanted to reach out to her family but didn’t know how. “I wrote long texts to my mom, then felt too shy to send them,” she says.
Luckily, Hannah’s mom came to her room to check on her. When she did, Hannah tearfully told her how she was feeling. Shortly after that night, Hannah began to see a therapist. She found out that her new health problems might have been a trigger for depression and anxiety. The whole experience gave her an idea. She would create an app that made it easy for teens suffering from a mental illness to ask for help.
The Action: This time, Hannah knew exactly who to turn to for help—her younger brother, Charlie. Excited to put his coding skills to work and have a way to support his sister, Charlie, 15, immediately started building the app. “I didn’t know how to help Hannah with her depression,” Charlie says. “But when she asked me to assist with her app, I knew what to do.”
Charlie and Hannah dubbed their project the notOK app, and it’s free for iOS and Android in the App Store. It’s simple to use: You enter contact info for up to five people you trust. Then, if you ever need help, you press a button on the app, and it sends this message: “Hey, I’m not OK. Please call me, text me, or come find me,” along with your current GPS location.
The Outcome: More than 70,000 people across the U.S. have downloaded the notOK app, and now the brother-sister duo is taking their campaign to connect teens to support systems a step further. They are drafting a bill to make mental health first aid certification mandatory for teachers statewide in Georgia, where they live. The law would ensure that every teacher understands how to identify and respond to signs that a student is struggling with a mental health issue. They have already found two representatives to support it at the start of the next legislative session in January.