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TW: self-harm, suicide, suicidal thoughts

Experiencing a mental health crisis is normal and so is asking for help. Sometimes asking for help feels impossible and can be made even more difficult when someone is experiencing heightened emotions. With these feelings ranging from fear to frustration and from sadness to anxiety, it is important to have people you can count on in the moment.

With 25% of people globally struggling with mental illness, Charlie Lucas wanted to help find a solution for when people do not have the energy to reach out for support. They created the notOk app, “a free digital panic button to get you immediate support via text, phone call, or GPS location when you’re struggling to reach out.” This app is meant for people who are in pre-crisis, which is a level four through seven on the crisis ladder.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Crisis Text Line hosted a webinar titled “The Emerging Mental Health Crisis in Youth.”  “Loneliness is one of the deep dark feelings that drives someone to suicide,” shared Dr. Shairi Turner, the Chief Medical Officer for Crisis Text Line during the webinar. By receiving support in the pre-crisis stage we can help prevent ourselves from reaching heightened levels of crisis.

According to the CDC, following accidental death, suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens. This shows how important it is to receive crisis intervention services early, rather than wait until it is too late. 

Charlie Lucas’ story for creating this app is one that is very to him personal. After his sister, Hannah, developed POTS, she struggled with severe anxiety and depression which led to thoughts and actions of self-harm. In these moments where she felt so alone, she wished that there was a quick and easy way to let someone know she needed support, and this is how the idea for the notOK app was born.

The notOk app lets users plan for moments of heightened emotions. When setting up the app, users are able to add up to five trusted contacts who will be alerted when the user indicates that they need support.

During “The Emerging Mental Health Crisis in Youth” webinar, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the current United States surgeon general, spoke about the importance of setting up supports ahead of time so that individuals are not struggling to find people who they can reach out to in a moment of crisis. He understands that reaching out when you are experiencing heightened emotions is not easy, so he believes apps such as this one are very beneficial.

To access help through the notOk app, all the user has to do is touch the red button for help and the preprogrammed trusted contacts will be sent a text message directing them to check in as soon as they can. They are also sent a link that they can click to indicate if they are able to offer support at that moment. 

If a contact responds letting the user know that they can help, they will be sent the user’s location. The user will then receive a text message letting them know that one of their contacts is able to support them. Once the user is feeling better they can click the green button to let their contacts know that they are no longer feeling “notOk.”

While waiting for a trusted contact to respond, the app leads the user through directed breathing exercises. If a user feels that they need more immediate support or their contacts are not responding, they can swipe up to get a number to call a warmline or they can text with Crisis Text Line.

The app also has additional resources available such as a mental health screening test, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, SAMHSA’s National Helpline and the Veteran’s Crisis Line

As always, if you are experiencing a severe, life-threatening emergency, you should reach out to 911 directly or take yourself to the nearest emergency room. Then, if you are able, you can press the notOk button. 

You are loved, you are important, you are worthy and your feelings are valid; please do not ever forget that. When experiencing mental health challenges please remember that you are not alone.

If you are looking for any of the resources discussed in this article, you can find them below.

notOk app – https://www.notokapp.com/download 

Crisis Text Line – text “HOME” to 741-741

Warmlines – 1-800-422-009

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727)

Veteran’s Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8255 PRESS 1

Gabrielle (she/her/hers) is a sophomore at American University majoring in elementary education and minoring in Spanish. She has been a writer since Fall 2020 and is the publishing director for our print magazine for Fall 2021. In her free time, she enjoys working with children and supporting diverse learners.
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