When Sanat Mohapatra was a freshman at Dartmouth School, he seen a lot of his friends have been using on-line boards to speak about psychological well being. By this, he realized there was a necessity for an nameless platform devoted particularly to discussing psychological well being points regarding college students. To treatment this downside, Mohapatra launched an app, Unmasked.
“I noticed there’s a necessity for an nameless platform that was far more targeted on psychological well being particularly as a result of college students weren’t all the time getting the very best responses on current platforms,” mentioned Mohapatra, who now serves because the app’s CEO. Since Mohapatra started outlining the app’s plans nearly 4 years in the past, Unmasked has unfold throughout the nation, together with to USC, the place it launched mid-February.
The app offers a platform for college kids to brazenly discuss their psychological well being. By permitting college students to put up feedback and instantly message others, the app fosters a help community whereas sustaining the anonymity individuals might want relating to discussing delicate points.
Unmasked’s founders wished to slim their app’s focus particularly to psychological well being, contemplating how discussions of psychological well being are sometimes met with stigma.
“The main focus with Unmasked was to convey out that facet of the nameless group and make it way more supportive for those who might really feel hesitant to succeed in out in public, attain out to buddies due to the stigma surrounding psychological well being,” mentioned Jun Tsuru, Unmasked’s chief working officer. “Unmasked was tailor-made as a supportive nameless group for that demographic.”
Paloma Chavez, a senior majoring in journalism and president of Unmasked at USC, initially discovered in regards to the app by way of a buddy at Dartmouth. After reflecting on her personal struggles with on-campus counseling companies and a basic pattern in psychological well being points amongst her friends, Chavez acknowledged a necessity for a protecting help system like Unmasked for the USC group.
“A number of children our age, whether or not they’re a freshman they usually’re simply beginning now, or me, I’m 22, have struggled with one thing,” Chavez mentioned. “The dimensions doesn’t actually exist as a result of it’s all relative to you, and there’s no hierarchy of what’s worse. I’ve actually seen at USC that so many children, my buddies and myself included, act like the whole lot’s okay when it’s actually not.”
After getting in contact with Tsuru by way of her buddy, Chavez introduced the thought of bringing the app to USC final August. She then labored to assemble a staff of scholars in October to finalize the platform’s launch.
“We interviewed individuals, [and] they’re all USC college students … and we bought a staff collectively,” Chavez mentioned. “Now it’s extra submarketing the app and spreading the phrase for individuals to make use of it.”
Mohapatra collaborated with scholar volunteers from Dartmouth’s DALI Lab, an area for college kids to create apps, web sites and digital actuality tasks to design the platform. After creating its preliminary prototype, Unmasked was finalized and launched in early 2020.
With a design harking back to conventional social media apps, Unmasked kinds communities inside faculties, sustaining message boards that enable college students to work together with classmates. Every campus’ model of Unmasked is run by college students of that school. Since its launch, it has amassed round 9,000 lively customers throughout 45 school campuses, together with UCLA and Princeton College.
As a result of the app is run by college students of a sure school campus, particularly for their very own classmates, there emerges a degree of group and understanding particular to their platform.
“It creates this very nice sense of camaraderie and unity along with your friends,” Chavez mentioned. She referred to Tsuru’s description of the app, summing it up as, “the very best buddy who’s all the time there, who by no means judges you.”
Shelbi Woodard, a sophomore majoring in enterprise administration, is a development marketer on USC’s staff. Woodward mentioned that whereas the app is frequently disseminating and attracting new customers, their focus lies in a way more easy purpose.
“We care extra about getting the app within the fingers of people that want it and are going to make use of it,” Woodard mentioned. “We’re undoubtedly very intentional with the place we’re advertising and marketing it and the way we’re advertising and marketing it.”
As Unmasked expands to extra school campuses across the nation, the app has obtained constructive suggestions from customers, with some citing how totally different facets of the app — from supportive feedback to DMs, conversations and extra — profoundly helped them.
“I feel we’ve seen quite a lot of testimonials which are actually heartwarming [and] jogs my memory what a blessing [it is] that we might be serving to individuals out like this,” Tsuru mentioned.
Sooner or later, Mohapatra hopes to develop the app’s attain to an all-school message board to permit college students to mingle between faculties. Moreover, Chavez spoke about introducing Unmasked in different areas like workplaces, emphasizing the truth that psychological well being points can persist past school.
“Step one to Unmasked is unmasking that persona or facade that you just’ve placed on all through the day and telling individuals how you actually really feel … and simply creating a way of normalcy,” Chavez mentioned. “With Unmasked, instructing everybody that, ‘I’m feeling the identical means, you’re not alone, and I’m right here for you everytime you want me,’ creates so much much less scary of a dialog.”