Impact Brief by How ‘Bout Now
As of 2019, over 50 million adults in the United States struggle with mental illness, with the largest age group being those between the ages of 18 and 25 (29.4%). Not only are these numbers alarming, but they beg the question as to whether there are enough resources—both professional and educational—to help. Furthermore, do all groups of people, especially those of the BIPOC community, have equal access and support?
7 million Black Americans are facing mental health issues.
Mental health issues are still stigmatized and often overlooked. Some groups are also deprived of resources and services compared to more privileged groups. This is especially true with the Black community and other minorities. According to Mental Health America, around 16%, or 7 million Black Americans (about twice the population of Oklahoma), struggle with mental illness. Even with all the health professionals and tools out there, it is clear that there is more that needs to be done for underprivileged groups.
If not now, then when?
A group of University of San Diego students who call themselves How ‘Bout Now, or HBN for short, teamed up and created a new AI-powered chatbot app that could be one solution to this issue. The target audience was Black students given that younger adults, such as those in college, may be experiencing this at a larger rate. Not only are HBN addressing the concerns about younger adults, but they are also giving a chance for the Black community and other POC to get the help they deserve. Together, GroupSolver® and HBN surveyed 199 people and gathered their thoughts on the new app concept.
Getting to know our respondents
Before diving into people’s perceptions of the concept, we wanted to get a feel for their experiences with mental health. We uncovered that 66% of our respondents currently struggle with mental health issues to some degree and 15% have in the past. In addition, 54% believe that there is a stigma attached to these issues.
We also wanted to gauge how they felt about mental health apps overall. When we asked about their experiences with the current landscape of mental health apps, we received both positive and negative sentiments. We discovered that most (74%) do not use any of these apps that are on the market. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to introduce HBN’s new app.
Meet Nala: your personal advocate and friend
The HBN team invented a customizable chatbot persona designed to talk to its users about their mental health struggles. HBN’s goal is to give people someone to talk to about anything and provide a private support system. The survey respondents were shown images of the concept and then asked a series of follow-up questions.
Many are intrigued by the concept, but some are still skeptical
Question: When you see this app, what words, phrases, or thoughts come to mind?
Generally, the first impressions towards Nala and the app were positive. Some top responses included “It would attract a younger generation connected to their phones” (70% support), “Interactive, easy to use” (64% support), and “innovative” (58% support). There are a few doubters, but overall HBN came up with a novel concept that interested some potential users. We then explored whether respondents would actually use the app.
Respondents were fairly split as to how often they’d use the HBN app, if at all. Those who said they’d use the app all the time or somewhat often like the ability to “use it at any time of day anywhere” (76% support) and they want “someone to talk to” (69% support). They also like that they’d be communicating with someone who wouldn’t be judgmental given that Nala is an avatar. On the other hand, those who said they’d use it sometimes, rarely, or never were mainly for the fact that they wouldn’t be talking to a real human being. A few don’t feel like they have a need for it.
Question: What are some specific reasons why you are likely to use this app?
Question: What could this app change or offer to make you more likely to use it?
There’s no one size fits all
There is no one right solution for everyone when it comes to mental health. People want and need different things, but from this study there is enough evidence to suggest that this could be a valuable resource for many who fit HBN’s target audience. Nala could very well become the friend someone needs to feel heard and supported who otherwise would not be able to access support. The time is now.
GroupSolver® would like to thank the How ‘Bout Now team and other impactful organizations for the invaluable work they do to create positive change within the community and greater society. For more studies on important societal issues, check out our recent lmpact Brief on access to menstruation and personal hygiene products for those experiencing housing insecurity.
Do you have a societal research question you’d like to study? Impact Briefs has your answer! We’ll help you design a study, collect data on the GroupSolver® platform, and share with you access to the platform. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.