A Kinder Approach to Mental Health Awareness

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May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, and for many sufferers of mental illness, social stigma and proximity to treatment still remain some of the biggest roadblocks to mental wellness.

Three Fordham students are hoping to revolutionize and reshape those two facets of mental health treatment.

“We have all these different fitness apps out there, so we figured, why not create a similar model for mental health patients?” said Mariella Sypa, a sophomore at Fordham College at Lincoln Center.

The founders of KindMind Mental Wellness Mobile Technology see their start-up program as a mental “fitness” app.

Teaming up for innovation

Kind Mind App Creators win award

At TrepCon, the team (gathered around Joseph Halpin, president of the Entrepreneurship Society) took first place in a pitch competition.(Photo by Taylor Michie)

The KindMind team includes five founders—two of them Fordham students and one a recent graduate, Weiyu Shen, GSAS ’16. Sypa manages operations and business strategy along with her brother, Steven Sypa, who handles legal matters.

The team also includes Elijah Bullard, who will graduate from Fordham this year with a master’s in computer science, and Elle Bernfeld, a licensed therapist who heads KindMind’s creative development. Undergraduate student Francesca Zambrano helps with front-end development.

The app is the brainchild of Mariella Sypa and Bullard, who came up with the idea in February of 2016 after having met at Fordham while studying computer science.

Shen, who graduated with a master’s in computer science, joined the duo as the chief technology officer in April of last year.

The KindMind app team won a pitch competition this past February at TrepCon, sponsored by the   Entrepreneurship Society at Fordham, Adobe, and Deloitte.

With features like mood tracking, a mood diary, and easy access to mental health providers, KindMind aims to benefit both first-time users and people already in treatment. Among the newest features the team has added are voice and face recognition functions that can help detect a person’s mood.

“We wanted to focus on mood tracking to help people become more aware of emotional patterns—and of their importance,” said Sypa.

The mood-tracking feature asks users to describe their moods, how they are feeling, and who may have affected their mood on a given day. The KindMind team hopes to optimize this function even further, with features like emojis and progress achievements.

“All of the features of KindMind work together as one unit,” said Shen, adding that he hopes their users can utilize the app to improve their mental health on a daily basis.

24-hour community support

Another essential tool that users will have is the ability to connect with a licensed mental health professional directly from their phones.

“Help is right in your pocket,” said Sypa. “You don’t even have to worry about getting to a physical location.”

Mental Health Awareness MonthMuch like existing popular fitness apps, KindMind will offer a 24/7 community support forum as well as a mental health blog with contributions from professionals.

“We want to have a widespread and honest dialogue about mental health, one in which there is no judgment for anyone,” said Sypa.

Sypa said that KindMind will be a useful resource for mental health professionals just starting out.

“Mental health providers can work from home, set their own work schedules, and hopefully optimize the number of clients they can treat,” she said.

KindMind has been in the beta testing stage and Sypa said the testing will continue during Mental Health Awareness Month. Interested parties can log on to the site (iOS only) to try it. Sypa said the team expects to have an official launch this summer.

Angie Chen, FCLC ’11

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