By Karon Warren
Photography courtesy of Hannah and Charlie Lucas and by Vania Stoyanova
Brotherly love guided a young man to develop an app to help his troubled sister. Now it’s available for anyone who needs help.
When Hannah Lucas, 16, of Atlanta was a freshman in high school, she was diagnosed with POTS, or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which caused her to frequently faint. As a result, she missed as much as 70 percent of the school year due to fainting.
When she was in school, Hannah was the target of bullying. In fact, a fellow student threatened to harm her the next time she passed out in school.
“Because of the combination of stress, I became extremely anxious and depressed,” Hannah says. “I self-harmed, developed eating disorders and eventually attempted suicide.”
Thankfully, she survived. But, more than that, she decided to thrive. She and her brother, Charlie, 13, searched for apps that helped teens in their time of distress but came up empty. Therefore, the pair decided to create their own.
“I had been feeling way too helpless with [Hannah’s] whole POTS thing, so I figured this was one area I could actually help,” Charlie says.
The basics of the app, called the notOK™ App, is simply this: Press the “not OK” button in the app, and it sends a text message to your preselected contacts (up to five) that states, “Hey, I’m not OK. Call, text or come to my location.” The message includes the user’s current GPS location. Trusted contacts do not need the notOK™ app to receive the message.
“The notOK™ app makes having those tough conversations easier,” Hannah says. “When a trusted contact is added, they are notified, which gives the user an opportunity to talk about what’s going on with them.”
Initially, Charlie wrote the coding so they would have a working prototype to show what they wanted. However, Charlie’s skills were not quite as professional as they needed for a consumer app.
“Hannah and I then convinced our parents we were serious, and they gave us the green light to hire an actual developer,” Charlie says. “I worked alongside them to make sure the app was exactly what we wanted.”
All in all, the project took approximately nine months from idea to marketplace. Launched in January, the notOK™ App already has been downloaded nearly 30,000 times. It is open to anyone who wants an easy way to reach trusted family and friends for help.
“The notOK™ App can be used for anyone who is simply not OK, because, let’s face it, there are so many different ways to be not OK in today’s society,” Hannah says.
Charlie says that includes physical health issues as well.
“This app can be used for literally anything,” he adds. “This app is not limited to just young people, because not only young people need help. Let’s face it: If a 10-year-old invented the cure for cancer, wouldn’t 30-year-olds use it, too?”
Hannah says she has received tremendous support from her friends in the app’s creation.
“My friends have really stuck by me with notOK™,” she says. “They think it’s a wonderful idea and help Charlie and me come up with potential updates.”
Those potential updates include an expansion into multiple countries and languages within the next few months. Charlie also is expanding the app’s contacts reach.
“I’m currently working on a major update to tie into the Crisis Text Line if all five trusted contacts don’t respond within several minutes,” Charlie says.
Getting the app to as many people as possible is key for Hannah and Charlie.
“The notOK™ is for anyone who is not OK,” Hannah says. “I want people to understand that no matter what you’re going through, you are not alone.”
While the app is free to download, it does require a subscription of $1.99 per month to cover the texting capabilities included within the app.
“Google and Apple require us to use a third-party text messaging system, which has costs associated with it,” Hannah says. “And we didn’t want it to be an app-to-app design because trusted contacts may not download the app. When people pay $1.99 a month, they are covering all the costs.”
In addition to the response they are receiving from users downloading the app, Hannah and Charlie also are receiving national attention for their effort to assist those suffering from mental health issues. In June, they received the mPower Award from Mental Health America for “creative efforts to speak up, educate peers and eliminate stigma about mental health issues.”
This year, the duo also received the Young Leader Award from the Georgia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for their dedication and service to the community.
And while those accolades are noteworthy, Hannah has a much more personal reward from their work on the app.
“The [app] has given me hope for the future that despite whatever I feel, my life does matter and has an impact on the world,” Hannah says.