A new app called Looper has just launched to help keep a close eye on those you most care about anywhere in the world. The free app allows you to keep in the loop with five people who check in daily and rate how they are feeling that day.
The app was developed by Amanda Hart, who has seen her husband Josh Hart, Director of One Agency Launceston, work long hours in an industry where burnout is rife and there is not much support or research in mental health.
When Amanda was 18, she would volunteer at a suicide prevention retreat where young people would go after they tried to take their own lives. The ‘timeout house’ was a safe place for them where no one would ask questions or judge, and would be a transition before they went home. This is where Amanda received basic suicide prevention training.
“There were so many people you wouldn’t expect there, like the school head prefect and small business owners. That was a revelation to me and I never thought it would be the case.”
Amanda’s career took her to her own clothing store, then starting a successful firm doing marketing in PR and working in Monaco in events. Throughout those 12 years, Amanda’s friends would text her every day at 4pm with a number from one to 10 which rated how they were feeling that day.
“I learnt that as part of my training in the suicide prevention house. It was used to check in on someone without being intrusive. I used to say to people in the house, shout out a zero if you need to go to hospital, and 10 if you’re going through a manic episode. That way, they could let us know how they were feeling without having to explain themselves or feel they were being judged.
“We’ve all been in that place when you are so worried about a friend or family member that you check their Facebook Messenger history to see when they were last active. I would set an alarm on my friends’ phones to remind them to check in with me at 4pm.”
It wasn’t until Amanda did a due diligence project in the pharmacy and healthcare sector that the penny dropped.
“I would be in meetings, learning about the transmission of personal data and insights into healthcare and how people want to be heard. Then my phone would be going off at 4pm and people would say ‘Geez, you’re popular Amanda!’ but it was my friends messaging me, checking in. It was a no-brainer to commercialise it.”
With a spouse in real estate and a close friend committing suicide from the pressures of the industry, the app was born out of Amanda’s frustration at the real estate industry’s need for agents to put on a facade.
“A few years ago, myself and Josh were the perfect example of being as non-authentic as possible. We would pretend everything is awesome, everything is great. It was like being a duck when you’re cool on top but frantically paddling underwater. That’s what society expects of us. All your social media outbound channels, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, tell other people that this is me at my best.
“You’re constantly branding yourself, whether you are a real estate agent or business owner. You always have to show you are strong enough and attractive enough to sell your greatest asset. You have to put on that brave front. That’s not what human nature is. It’s working against the will of human nature and vulnerability and what makes us authentic. There’s a real power struggle between who you are as a person and who you are as a brand.
“It’s important to create a safe place, where you can be authentic with a few people you trust and take away from that pressure on the workplace where you have to create that poker face. The beautiful thing about authenticity is that when I started being real with people, people started saying ‘me too!’ and all of a sudden you feel heard and understood, because you know that people might have same deep-down insecurity as you.”
Amanda flipped the process on its head and started with the design process. The process to create Looper took three and a half years. Design was the thing Amanda wanted to perfect, because of research that found half of people drop off all mental health apps because most apps are not user friendly.
Amanda and her team at Social Health Innovations spend two years researching and developing the platform around gamification, building the app on the same gaming platform that was used by Pokemon Go. They then engaged a Fortune 200 company to build a unique back end to make it very secure so no one can hack into the system and steal personal data. The app also does not store identifiable data like phone numbers to protect users’ identities.
“We were able to really refine the design first and have hundreds of people testing it. Their feedback was they were desperate for it and that’s when we knew there was a desire for it.”
The next goal for Looper is to launch an enterprise version next year where the app is offered to organisations and connects users with a duty of care provider, which might be an independent psychologist, personal trainer or company-paid psychologist. After users log their feelings, HR managers get real-time data on how the organisation is feeling as a whole.
During the research process, Amanda found a lack of research on mental health in the Australian real estate industry. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, suicide rates among real estate sellers are 1.38 times higher than average.
Headsup reports that real estate has the highest number of claims for mental health disorders for the size of the industry and has the fourth highest average compensation claim size for mental health disorders ($22,600).
The app has been live for just over 24 hours and Amanda says it has received positive feedback so far.
“We want to give people that channel to communicate authentically in a safe place. It’s not about getting people on their phone, it’s just about starting that conversation.
“How many lives can you potentially save by sparking those conversations?”