In the past 2 months I have been working on a personal project called Ana. What or who Ana is, read more to find out!
What/who is Ana?
Ana is the name of the virtual intelligent app that will help users cope with depression and suicidal thoughts by talking to them and advising solutions to treat their condition better. Ana is basically a person but she only exist in the virtual world.
What/who is Ana for?
Ana is created for people who suffer from depression and especially having suicidal thoughts.
How does it work?
Ana works in a way to ease people's mental pain by talking to them and from the users' speech and words Ana can take some important key words and add into her analytics.
Example, if I told Ana : "I think nobody likes me, I don't know what to do!" = Think , nobody, , likes and me when detected on the same sentence or spoken at the very short time frame will trigger Ana's analytic that this person possibly has anxiety which is one of the symptoms in depression.
Then it will be reported to the person's journal and if there is nothing else that triggers, this is potentially means this person is having a mild depression and that Ana will advice some activity to be done like : "I heard there is a free yoga class at (insert nearest studio here) , why don't you give it a try?"
Ana will also track your daily progress to see if her analytic and solution is good for you by your daily emotion log.
Now with some basic questions aside, let's take a look at the behind the scene on why I created Ana.
How it begins :
I joined a group on Depression and anxiety support in Facebook because I used to suffer from depression and I did have anxiety. From what I observed in the group for the past 3months I saw that they share the similar speech pattern and the admins are working in a way to reply their posts. I can conclude that at least 90% of people there who suffer from depression have a reason why they have depression.
Whether it is job problem, family, romance, bullying, money.
I went to two psychiatrists, Dr Ashwin Kandouw from Dharmawangsa Sanatorium Jakarta and Dr Eunice Pinkan from Klinik Buah Hatiku Jakarta to really find out the reason why people have depression.
All of them, they agreed that depression might have reason and no reason. The leading cause is problem encountered with life. Some other reasons are genetic and post partum.
However, all those reasons leads to one thing : a low level of serotonin in the brain, therefore, the depression.
I realised so much people suffers from depression go untreated, from the group nor from real life. At least in the group, I saw a significant amount of them took medicine in the past and still do, however in real life, people who suffers from depression vs people who go to the professional to actually treat it is very small. After talking to them, I learned that the reason why is because of some stigmas which shows lack of research and relying on instinct, which are :
1. that antidepressants are some kind of happy drug and if you don't drink it, it's going to get worse.
2. Psychiatrist is expensive
3. The depression will go away by itself.
4. The main reason of depression is the problem itself and how to treat it is to solve the problem that caused it.
I won't lie, I used to have all these 4 stigmas before I treat myself and I am sure hundreds people I haven't talk to have at least one of these stigmas.
To confirm my understanding, I talked to these two doctors on my finding and they have confirmed it. They have understood that people have this assumptions and it is their duty to educate them, however, if the person still choose to believe their assumption and still refuse to take any actions, it is completely out of the doctors' bound.
At the same time, I try to break the assumptions with them and asked the following :
Q : Is it true that antidepressants are some kind of happy drug and if you don't drink it, it's going to get worse?
A : No. The medicine actually works like a long term antibiotic. If you stopped taking it at some point, nothing worse will happen, however unfortunately, when prolonged, you have to restart your treatment. The shortest time I have seen in my experience is 6 months when I prescribe that patient to be medicine free. The time to range a person's duration taking the medicine can vary. It could take few years.
Q : Will depression heal by itself?
A : No. Depression can be helped with some good lifestyle as exercise and eat the right food however it cannot be treated by itself.
Q : Will the medicine really work even though i still have the same problem as before?
A : It depends on each person. Every person have different dosage needed. Therefore, it is best to prescribe and try first.
To answer assumption number two, I think that expensive is relative to each person with different level of income. It is pretty similar to visiting a specialist doctor in other field and I think the medicine is not too expensive for my financial condition. My medicine was IDR 6,000 per capsule (about MYR1.7 per capsule), but it could be different to each individual.
Now with that aside, I can conclude that people's assumptions about mental health will stick longer when they don't seek clarifications, therefore, I also wanted to make a product that helps to educate people that mental health treatment is not that "scary"
After observing the community, I see that most of them would love to have people to talk to and just share what's on their mind.
I went on to find other products that might help treat depression and suicidal thoughts such as Fabulous (although this is more like a habit adjusting app, but it actually can be used to help depression in a way), MY3, and Suicide Safety Plan.
Here's a diagram on how these three apps are different
Here are some what the users say about the apps :
From these three apps performance, I conclude that :
1. User enjoy the "safety plan" feature that you can add emergency contacts. It is great if the app itself can add emergency hotline according to users' area.
2. User find it engaging to have tasks to be completed in a mission kind of form to avoid procrastination.
3. User loves the way Fabulous break things into small micro tasks and it helps with a user's laziness.
4. A user commented that it would be great to see a journal entry in the app so they can look back on their previous activity log.
Graph 1 shows that there is a significant raise in the suicide rate on the age 15-24 and the number steadily rising to the age group above it. It shows that at the age of 15-24 are the beginning of suicidal thoughts of one’s life and I see that it is important to prevent all the possibility of the suicidal thoughts in their later age.
Now, let’s take a look the link between suicide rate and depression.
If you take a look at the last dot on Graph 1 in the 15-24 category (black line) and compare it to the graph 2 in 18-25 category, you can notice the date based in the same year (2017) and that there is a rising suicide rate and the highest depression rate among the similar age group ( 15-24 vs 18-24 )
According to Discoverymood.com : “A new study led by Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor, finds that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age did that were surveyed back during the era of the Great Depression. ”
The possible reason according to Therese J. Borchard, author of Beyond Blue , “Most experts would agree with me that there is more stress today than in previous generations. Stress triggers depression and mood disorders, so that those who are predisposed to it by their creative wiring or genes are pretty much guaranteed some symptoms of depression at the confusing and difficult time of adolescence. I think modern lifestyles -lack of community and family support, less exercise, no casual and unstructured technology-free play, less sunshine and more computer -factors into the equation.”
After a lengthy research, I put down all my findings here in this paper.
To analyse the user better, I try to make user personas that demonstrates user's action and mind based on their age demographic :
The first user persona is Amy, a teenager who suffers from depression.
The second user persona is Bryan, a working young adult who also suffers from depression.
User Flows & Red Routes
Sketches of Wireframe
You will see in the final design that I removed checklist and progress function as I don't want this app to be an additional task for teens and young adult. I want it to be more like their friend instead of their "more tasks".
From the wireframe, I decided to move on to the design because I felt like I got my research and foundation done.
I made the design in iPhone X and XS that are buttonless to make sure that this can also accommodate the button-less phone. However as I am not an iPhone X user, I wonder if there is any more adjustment to make !
Sorry, I still live in the stonehenge era, my phone still has a home button on it! 😂
These are just some screenshots of the design of the app, please read on to directly view the prototype!
I am still gathering feedbacks on this app and would love to hear how can I improve it.
Please try the app (best viewed on Apple iPhone X and above) and email me your feedback 🥰 I realllyyyy appreciate it!
Link to prototype : https://marvelapp.com/j0686e4
Thank you for reading this! I hope to be able to make more personal projects as I grow.
See you in my next post 👋