New app for schools aims to boost students' mental health

After suffering the pain of losing four loved ones to suicide, a young philanthropist has developed app to help young adults improve their mental wellbeing.
Mustafa Sheikh has dedicated his life to improving mental health among New Zealands youth because of the experiences he had growing up in Gisborne, where poverty was an everyday reality.

When we were kids my friends and I would come to school with no lunch or proper clothing ... Ive literally seen fights over a sandwich at school.

Sheikh has now developed ClickCheck an app designed to be used at intermediate and secondary schools.

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It allows the school to send a supportive email every fortnight that uses keywords designed to stimulate the release of feel good hormones dopamine and serotonin.

Sheikh created the app to improve young peoples wellbeing after he lost four loved ones to suicide.

It also asks the student if there is anything the school can do for them, and allows them to submit problems they have been experiencing to a specific person, such as a teacher.

Its flipping the script and making it proactive, which is the only way to make a difference, because otherwise we are waiting for something to happen before we provide support.

Part of the app included what Sheikh called meme therapy, where students could view a meme to help them have a laugh with their friends even if they are having a bad day.

The app, which was developed after 18 months of research, has been endorsed by celebrities including musician Stan Walker, former All Black Maa Nonu, and Miami Heat basket baller Kendrick Nunn.

Sheikh, a self-made entrepreneur, previously set up a charity called Bread that aimed to mentor and inspire youth. The four years spent developing that programme combined with his academic background and honours degree gave him the tools to develop ClickCheck, he said.

Christel Yardley/Stuff
Singer Stan Walker says the ClickCheck app will help more than 200,000 students.

He first considered using behavioural therapy, but realised after working with students in schools that it would not work.

He also found apps that required downloads were not popular, with research showing usage dropped dramatically once they were downloaded. Instead, his app utilised email as all students had access to school computers.

Singer Stan Walker said he was proud to support Sheikh and the ClickCheck app, which would help more than 200,000 students.

Theres been numerous times in my career that I wouldnt have been successful if I didnt focus on my mental wellbeing. Its OK to talk about it and seek help.

Students who might not have had access to support before would now have it for free and for life through ClickCheck, he said.

The prime minister wants New Zealand to be the best place in the world to grow up - but UNICEF's latest child wellbeing rankings have the country among the worst performing in the developed world. (First published September 2020)

For Auckland father Bryan Symes, the issue of what could be done to help students with mental health problems became particularly important after he lost his 20-year-old son, Brayden, to suicide in 2016.

Symes said his son struggled with his mental health after sustaining a head injury in a car crash when he was 17. He believed the app would provide an easier and more affordable route for young people to seek help.

For those kids that have nothing with parents that cant put dinner on the table, yet alone send them to the psychologist, this will help.

Symes said even though his familys comfortable position meant his son could access a psychologist at any time, it was still not enough.

The reality is there is no silver bullet, but at least this app provides something where they have a chance to help.


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