'It controlled my life': Why a Saskatoon teen created an app to help herself and others struggling with mental health
Kelli Lemstra created The Daily Difference, a mental health app. (Alexa Lawlor/CTV Saskatoon)
Apps for mental health are becoming more and more popular, especially locally – from The Daily Difference, created by a Saskatoon teen, to Refresh Wellness, created by a Saskatoon company.
For 16-year-old Kelli Lemstra, the bullying began in Grade 2. It got worse when it started happening online as well.
“Once they all started getting phones, it was all day every day,” she said.
Lemstra struggled with anxiety and depression – at one point she said she was even thinking about suicide, she said.
“Because I was bullied so hard, my anxiety started getting a lot worse,” she said. “I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to hang out with my friends, I didn’t want to meet new people because I thought they weren’t going to like me and I was going to have new bullies. It controlled my life.”
However, Lemstra came up with a positive solution – creating The Daily Difference, an app not only to help her, but also to help others struggling with mental health.
The app took a year to develop, with help from a team of professionals. It has eight self-help modules that include resources for dealing with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
The app also features a section with video links to help cope with anxiety, as well as a section with a different random act of kindness for every day of the week. According to Lemstra, adding in the random acts of kindness was important because of how good it can feel when someone says or does something kind.
“I found that when I compliment someone I notice how happy it can make them, and receiving a compliment always makes me happy,” she said.
For Lemstra, creating the app has been a part of her healing process and she hopes it can also help others – so they don’t have to go through what she did.
According to Lemstra’s father, Mark, it was difficult to watch his daughter struggle with bullying and mental health but after what she’s been through, she’s now stronger.
“What she went through is like cancer treatment,” he said. “If somehow you can find a way to survive it you’re stronger for it. But it’s not something you would ever wish on someone.”
At Refresh Inc., the idea behind their mental health app came from a conversation between CEO Naqsh (Nick) Kochar and a friend about a tattoo of a semicolon on her wrist.
“When she said the meaning of th(e tattoo) meant she had suicidal tendencies, it really took me back because I didn’t know that was something that was affecting her,” Kochar said. “So it kind of opened my eyes to the world of wellness and mental health.”
The app was developed in collaboration with Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
After opening the Refresh Wellness app, the user is able to log how they’re feeling based on a colour system, choosing between red, orange, green, or blue.
The user can then input other data, like choosing a specific word to describe how they feel – if they chose green, they could choose between happy, positive, calm, focused, or alert. There’s also an option to add a description as to why they feel that way.
According to Kochar, an app is helpful because with mental health, you never know where you are on any given day, or when you could be at a low point.
“For those moments when you really do need something right now, or just need to talk to somebody right now, that’s the reason why an app is so effective,” he said.
Lemstra also believes an app is the easiest solution because it helps people access resources they may not be able to find otherwise.
“Everyone my age has phones,” she said. “Everyone has apps, (but) not a lot of people have a lot of resources or a lot of opportunities for counselling or psychiatrists. They aren’t really able to find those resources and many parents aren’t really educated on mental health.”