TRU student teamed-up to develop smartphone app for youth with mental illness
By Glynn Brothen
Image Credit: viha.ca
January 15, 2015 - 11:17 AM
KAMLOOPS – At the age of 18, a first year Thompson Rivers University psychology student has already achieved something to help many coping with mental illness — and it's a little different because it involves interactive game play.
Sara Gillis and 13 others developed Booster Buddy – a free interactive smart-phone app designed specifically for youth with psychosis.
“It was made to give a sense of companionship,” Gillis says. “I know that it’s been successful all over the world.”
The app launched in September. Gillis says in the last four months it’s been downloaded over 2,000 times. One reviewer as far away as London, England wrote to the developers of Booster Buddy to say the app helped them with their mental illness.
Gillis says the sense of companionship comes from an interactive avatar that regularly checks in with the user and provides simple, attainable goals each day.
“It’s the first (app) of its kind in Canada,” she says.
The goals are simple Gillis says. It could be simple like having a glass of water or brushing your teeth – things that could be overlooked by someone in psychosis.
When goals are completed, the youth will receive coins allowing them to buy clothes and dress up their animal avatar. Beyond daily check-ups on mood, users can look at their progress over the last week or month.
Gillis says it can help demonstrate progress to counsellors.
If a user is in crisis, the app can link to a special page with emergency contact numbers and a list of coping mechanisms.
Gillis, originally from Shawnigan Lake, initially helped brainstorm with the Vancouver Island-based team of youth, parents, clinicians and an app developer. She continued to assist with the app’s development after her move to Kamloops. She’s now a first-year psychology student at TRU.
Gillis and her cohorts plan to meet this weekend at a mental health conference in Vancouver to discuss more opportunities with the app.
To learn more about Booster Buddy, check out the application’s website.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015