Teen siblings create app to help prevent suicide

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A brother and sister from Cumming teamed up to create an app to help those struggling with mental illness. The teens are making reaching out for help as easy as sending a text message through the "notOk" app.

"It is OK to be not OK, whatever that means for you," said high schooler Charlie Lucas, who invented the notOK app with his sister Hannah.

Whether it's an addiction, bullying or mental struggle, teens and adults can use the app to reach out to family, friends, support groups or therapists – whoever they select as "trusted contacts." The major reason for the teens' effort: to get people talking about mental health in order to prevent suicide. Studies show that having peer support plays a crucial role in improving mental health and wellness.

"The stigma is the most dangerous part of mental health," Charlie said.

"It stops you from reaching out and getting help. It stops you from even telling anyone," he said.

So Charlie and Hannah created the notOK app, which functions as a digital panic button. When you open the app and press the notOK button, it send a text message to your pre-selected contacts asking them to check on you. The text includes the user's GPS location.

Creating this app came from a very personal place for the Lucas family.

"When I was a freshman in high school, I was diagnosed with a condition called POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Hannah said. The condition can cause fainting, nausea, sweating, and vomiting. Hannah started passing out in the halls and ended up missing more than 200 classes freshman year. Then she started to get bullied for her condition.

"I was bullied, I was sexually harassed, I was threatened," Hannah said. "It was the worst, to say the least."

The bullying led Hannah to depression, anxiety, and a downward spiral.

"I self-harmed, and eventually, I made a suicide attempt," she said.

Her mother walked in and was able to save Hannah's life. That's when the teen knew she wanted to turn her life around and use her experience to help others get help before it's too late.

"In order to verbally ask someone for help, that takes a lot of courage, and I didn't, and still don't have that courage sometimes," Hannah said. That longing for help but needing assistance asking is where the notOK app comes in.

"To be able to just press a button on your phone and throw it away and not have to think about it until you get the help you need, that's something," Hannah said.

Something they hope others will take advantage of – realizing that it's OK to be not OK.

"You'll get beauty from your ashes, and I feel like this is my little phoenix, and it grows out of the ashes of my pain," said Hannah.

For more information on the notOK app, click here.