How might we create more personal connections for mental health?



Mental health and depression are highly misunderstood topics. Many times, those experiencing depression may not feel comfortable sharing how they feel. This feeling of loneliness is dangerous and potentially draws a thin threshold between life and death. There are very few existing resources that address mental health.

My role: 

I worked on the project for 24 hours at a hackathon with some lovely new friends: Nhu, Bruce, and Damon

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The Process


16.2 million. 43.8 million. 350 million.


16.2 million people in 2016 experienced a depression episode. 43.8 million people have experienced mental health issues. And an upwards of 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

Many people who have depression or anxiety don’t seek out the help they need. Talking through their problems with someone can vastly influence their outlook on life. Unfortunately, it can be immensely difficult to open up to family, friends, or loved ones, ultimately resulting in an ensuing loneliness.

Anonymity is proven to make users feel more comfortable providing more personal thoughts (without the public gaze and digital footprint). With apps like Whisper, Yik Yak, and Secret allowing users to express their true feelings, some poignant responses have even surfaced:


"Yesterday, I filled my bathtub, took a razor, and sank in it to end it all. My dog came into the bathroom and put his tiny paws on the tub. I instead went to bed crying."


There is no current platform curating this content and providing a more specific safe space for this.

What is already out there? Apps like headspace are really great for self-care and meditation, but doesn’t quite tackle the harder hitting issues. Therapy is a more common service but can be pricey and less accessible. Suicide hotlines have their own slew of issues — from being understaffed, to having wildly varying outcomes from volunteer to volunteer, and more.

Sources: National Institute of Public Health, Healthline, The LA Times

37% of those experiencing mental health issues never seek out help.

37% of those experiencing mental health issues never seek out help.

This diagram represents mental health and the statistics of its treatment. About 37% of those experiencing mental health issues never seek out help for a variety of reasons. Releaf’s primary audience is that 37%. By providing a safe space and no-stress platform allowing them to speak openly about their concerns, they may find some comfort from other individuals who may be going through something similar.



“Would you feel more comfortable sharing your struggles with a stranger anonymously?”

“Would you prefer to share your struggles with someone who is the same gender with you?”

“Would you prefer sharing your struggles with someone who is going through similar problems and can better understand you?”






Through some quick user interviews, we were able to learn a lot about how people deal with their own and their friends' mental health.  We gathered that a subject like this would be extremely sensitive to broach, and to design with the end-user always in mind.  We extrapolated that we had to think critically about our branding and color palette, as these were essential to a good user experience.



Adam McBride is a 20 years old college student at Penn State. He is single. Adam identifies himself as a part of LGBT community.

He often feels he is the minority and he’s afraid that he doesn’t belong to Penn State. In addition. Adam often feels tired and lacks motivation to go to classes. He failed 2 classes last semester, and doesn’t want to let others know he is struggling.


Emily Young is a 32 years old single woman. She is divorced. Emily is a marketing manager in the tech industry, working 9–5 on the weekdays. People often see her as an independent woman and a very extroverted person.

She seems good at public speaking and knows what she’s doing. However, she often feels alone and has a difficult time to find someone to share what she really thinks.



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How is Releaf different from other options? 

Releaf matches you with someone who knows and understands what you’re going through. By assigning each user an anonymous name, they can feel more comfortable sharing their problems with others.

We drew inspiration from Google Docs. Google does a really great job of choosing gender-neutral colors and animals for anonymous users. Given that our product is Releaf, we created plant-inspired icons and names instead.






  • Users see the service as mutually beneficial

  • We thought more about functionality rather than the implementation

  • Considering the confidentiality of the user

  • Taking into consideration the user’s feelings


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