Creating a road map for youth in crisis

Mellow, an app designed by a GBC team, is a crisis tool for youth in Peel

If you have ever been in crisis, you may agree that it feels like being lost in a dark forest without a map.

Crisis planning helps to create a map in preparation for these times, and a team of students and professors at George Brown College (GBC) have found a way to put that map directly in the hands of a group in need of such support—youth in the Peel Region.

The team designed an app called Mellow.

While crises can happen to anyone, these issues are especially prevalent in the Peel Region where youth are falling between the cracks, according to Elise Hodson, principal investigator for the Mellow app, and chair of the school of design.

A crisis could range from family conflict, stress, depression, or trouble at school to self-harm, substance misuse, and homelessness.

Many youth were not aware of the services that were available to them in Peel, or were at an in-between age that resulted in being shuffled from one system to the next.

“They found people were ending up in emergency rooms, dialing 911, in the justice system, when they didn’t need to be,” said Hodson. “There were alternatives, they could have had support earlier if they had known where to turn.”

This is where Mellow comes in.

The App has three main features.

The Daybook feature functions as a journal, while Community, another feature, pulls up a map of all nearby services and connects users online or by phone.

MyPlan is a support plan, previously known as a crisis plan. The plan documents what you need to know in times of crisis and how to seek help.

Traditionally, this plan was done on paper, and carried around in case it is needed.

“Youth don’t really like paper-based,” said Jenny To, who graduated from GBC’s interaction design and development program in April and works as an interaction designer on the project. “They’re always on their phones, they told us. They wanted something digitalized.”

From their community consultations working directly with youth, they also realized the need for a simplified dialing function, so they designed and developed Mellow Call.

Mellow Call lets users set their top three trusted contacts they can turn to in a time of need, so they can get in touch with the right person without much thought.

“They told us in a time of crisis they don’t know who to contact, they can’t move their fingers to get to their call log,” said To. “This way they can have just one step to contact a person.”

“Hopefully it can help youth to de-escalate their crisis, find a way to self-empower, learn more about their triggers, how they can help, and how others can help themselves,” To added.

After two years of in-depth community consultation and more than a year of design, development, and testing, Mellow is set to be launched at the end of January 2019.

Though originally targeting the Peel Region, To and Hodson both see this solution as transferable, and hope to see it in other communities where there are similar needs.

The app will be available to download on both Apple and Android and is free of cost.

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Creating a road map for youth in crisis