Teens Create App To Make It Easier To Call For Help In Times Of Distress

By Victoria Kim 03/30/18

A Georgia sibling duo created the notOk app to allow those in need of assistance to call for help with one button.

hannah and charlie lucas
Hannah and brother Charlie Lucas are making it easier to reach out for help Photo by Vania Stoyanova

A new app aspires to help people help themselves—with a tap of a button.

It’s not easy asking for help in times of distress. Hannah Lucas knows this firsthand. Last year, the 16-year-old high school sophomore from Georgia was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a circulatory disorder that causes lightheadedness and fainting.

Because of her condition, Lucas missed 70% of the last school year, and became anxious, depressed, and suicidal. In addition to getting bullied at school, her fainting spells kept her on high alert; she lived in constant fear of losing consciousness, not knowing when or where it would happen.

“I started passing out more and more often and I was terrified of going anywhere,” Lucas told ABC News. “Because what if I passed out and no one was around or what if someone took advantage of me?”

The high schooler was going through “a really rough time” and wondered if “there was an app that could help me.”

She decided to take matters into her own hands. Her brother Charlie, 13, used his summer camp coding skills to draft the foundation for a new app that would help people like Hannah call for help with one button. They call it the notOK app.

Even in its early stages, the app was helping Hannah cope with her anxiety. “Making this app made her feel better and that made me feel better,” said Charlie.

The siblings’ creation got the attention of professors at Georgia Tech, where Hannah was taking a summer entrepreneurship class. The young app-makers were put in touch with developers in Savannah, who they have been working alongside to create the final version of the notOK app.

“When you’re depressed, you don’t necessarily want to reach out,” Hannah told The Mighty. “I know I didn’t.”

The app, launched in February on both iOS and Android, works by simplifying the process of calling for help—whether for a medical or mental health emergency. The user opens the app, taps on a red button, and a message is sent out to up to 5 pre-selected contacts that reads, “Hey, I’m not OK. Please call me, text me, or come find me,” along with your GPS location.

By helping herself, Hannah is now helping others. She said the app, and the positive feedback it has received, has given her a sense of comfort. “The reaction we’ve heard has been really positive, especially from parents and kids suffering with anxiety,” she said. “Those kids don’t know the words to tell somebody.”

The sister-brother team is now hoping to team up with schools so they can waive the $2.99 monthly fee for students.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr