Teenagers Chloe Westphal, Marina Stepanov, Stephanie Lopez, Genesis Saucedo and Amanda Arellano know what depression and anxiety feel like. They are average teenagers dealing with average teenage stresses — school, friends, family pressure, work, life — and they know how quickly that can become overwhelming. So when the girls learned about the school shooting in which high school freshman Jaylen Fryberg shot five students and then himself in Washington state, they decided they needed to take action to help prevent this kind of thing from happening again.
The teens, students at Tri-Tech Skills Center High School in Kennewick, Washington, created an app to help their peers deal with personal and social problems. It's called Safe & Sound, and it helps teens recognize the signs of depression and seek help if they need it. Safe & Sound features a journal in which users can express their thoughts and feelings as well as breathing exercises and other tips for handling daily stress management.
The Fryberg shooting — which happened in Maryville, Washington, just a few hours from their own community — made the girls think and prompted them to act, creating the Safe & Sound app:
“The Seattle Times did an article on how he [Fryberg] had been posting his feelings to Twitter for months with no one really listening,” Westphal said in an email with the Huffington Post. “This sad example of how serious the situation can get really motivated us to create an app that could prevent this kind of thing in the future.”
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for teens, a fact Arellano knows all too well. Her cousin committed suicide after becoming overwhelmed by feelings of depression.
The girls originally created Safe & Sound as an entry in a competition. Since winning the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, the girls have been working with a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to build the app. They were also recently recognized at the White House Science Fair for their work.
But the teens behind Safe & Sound are just happy that there will soon be a tool that teens can use to help them handle what life throws at them.
“Our hope is that Safe and Sound will be more than just a stress management app, but a light in the darkness that is anxiety and depression,” said Arellano.
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