Gen Z engineer founds mental health app to make asking for help easier

Mental health isn’t a joke. We can kind of treat it like a game, though.

At least that’s the case for FullCircle, an app founded by 22-year-old Ananya Jain that makes asking for help just a tiny bit easier.

The engineer, who is from India but now lives in the United States, started FullCircle in 2017 during her first year at Georgia Tech University.

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She told In The Know’s Holly Wang that it began as a biomedics company that took inspiration from nature to solve problems, and it was fairly successful.

‘Mental health is so much more than that’

When Jain returned to college for her second year, though, things were different for her.

“I was also struggling with mental health,” she said. “Things just sort of got really bad to the point where I was really stressed out, and my hair was starting to fall out.”

She said she didn’t have money to see a therapist, so she was left with “no one to turn to.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t an unusual circumstance for many college students, who often don’t have immediate access to the appropriate resources.

“Counseling wait times at universities right now are about three to six weeks long,” Jain said. “That’s like telling someone, ‘Okay, we don’t have enough capacity for you because we’ve already got so many students that have come to us. If you’re still alive in six weeks, come back to us.'”

After dealing with her own struggles and noticing that other students around the world were dying by suicide, she decided to take a stand and pivot the mission of FullCircle completely.

Jain explained that she did six months of research, which uncovered that Gen Z was in dire need of mental health services.

“We realized that everyone sort of put mental health into the box of therapy or counseling, whereas mental health is much more than that,” she said. “If you look at TikTok, you’ll see memes about mental health every single day, so people are very open in Gen Z to talk about their mental health, and that’s where FullCircle comes in.”

How does FullCircle work?

With the newly revamped FullCircle app, Jain wanted to build a community “where people feel comfortable asking for help and giving help based on shared experiences.”

When you open the app, you’ll see a completely blank screen with two buttons. Click one to ask for help, and the other to lend it.

“We made a game, which is like a speed ranting game, where you come in and rant about your week,” she explained. “And then you can challenge your friends to a speed ranting challenge to see who has had the worst week.”

Turning the highly stigmatized conversation surrounding mental health into a sort of game makes it a bit easier to talk about while creating a community for people who need support.

‘That one message that I got [that] made it all worth it’

Jain has received quite a bit of attention for her work on FullCircle — a Forbes profile, the U.K.’s Diana Award for humanitarian work and recognition from the Indian government — but she said those accolades can’t compare to the satisfaction of helping people.

She said that she’s spent a “really long time” thinking about how the app helped a student at the University of Warwick ask for help from her peers when she was overwhelmed from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A month later, she reached out to me personally and said, ‘You saved my life,'” Jain said. “Even if that was one life that we saved by making FullCircle, I think we’re good. I think if this company fails, if everything goes to s***, that one message that I got [that] made it all worth it.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness or mental health concerns, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-6264. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741. Visit the NAMI website to learn more about signs and symptoms of various mental health conditions.

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