Hopelab is an innovative company that is taking strides to break the barriers of the stigma with mental health and help LGBTQ+ teens to connect with mental health services. Hopelab has created an app titled imi to help these teens with their mental health. We spoke with the team about their app and how it is changing the way of the future for these teens.
imi is a research-backed mental health tool that serves LGBTQ+ teens. The digital tool was co-created with Hopelab, It Gets Better, and Centerlink for teens to be able to explore and affirm their identity. While there are companies dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ community with crisis situations, such as the Trevor Lifeline and the Trans Lifeline, who can help them in their moment of crisis, there is more that needs to be made available.
imi focuses on four topic-based guides: stress, queerness, stigma, and gender. These topics are based on research and what research says they need most, but also, what youths are saying that they need most. The highly interactive app includes science-backed activities, resources, and learning moments. These aids have all been backed by the science of what works for the youths.
There were many youths' voices that were involved in the project and those voices are represented within the tools themselves and represent many intersectional identities, which enables you to use imi to hear from others who are like them, to not feel alone, and understand other people's journeys as well. In addition, the imi project worked with a lot of queer artists, designers, and illustrators, many of which are young people themselves, to really develop the artwork and visual design as the web app. Youths were key in testing the visual designs, and they really ensured that the tool feels especially relevant to all in the community, including those teens of black, indigenous, and other teens of color.
We know that there are big disparities in mental health for LGBTQ+ teens, and that is the reasoning behind why this app was developed, to give them a greater sense of support, a better sense of ability to explore and affirm that identity, and then also to help manage some of the stressors that come up living in a world that doesn't always affirm and is sometimes outrights hostile. In particular, with the legislative climate we are seeing right now these young people need tools that really boost them up and let them know that they are not alone. That is the main goal of imi. Many of the concerns of other resources can feel sterile, with meditation, and then you are back in the real world, which can be stressful and overwhelming. There is a lot of care with imi, and there is a human aspect of it that shows just how caring and thoughtful the app is. There is a hope that the teens who use the app can sense the love, care, and effort put into building the app and making it what it is today.
Hopelab wants to make sure that they are making products that people love and adore, and that are accessible so that their partners can get the products out to the public. They also want to make sure that they can prove some level of efficacy or impact on the actual outcomes that the products provide.
They partnered with the University of Pennsylvania and their Program on Sexuality, Technology, and Action Research (PSTAR) team to have imi tested in a randomized controlled trial. The aim of the trial was to really understand if the intervention itself have an impact on some of the pieces they were trying to move. They ended up working with them to get a diverse sample of teens from all around the country, with 270 teens through social media ads to participate. A major goal of this study was to evaluate the response from teens who are experiencing multiple stressors and to see if they were finding success with the app. The trial paired the study participants with either imi or another group tool, Asterisk, and evaluated their progress at multiple points throughout their trial. The imi group continuously saw improvement in the participants coping skills and coping resources over those using Asterisk.
One interesting addition to the app is the use of a quick exit button within the app. This is on each screen and allows the user to quickly back out of the app if they are suddenly in an unsafe space or if someone approaches them and they do not want them to be seen using the app. This simple design feature just adds to the overall thoughtfulness and depth of the app, as well as the caring that went into it. There is also a timeout feature on the app, and after 10 minutes of inactivity, it will timeout and default to another site. This is another level of protection for the user so that there is less risk of the young person being unintentionally outed to family members, friends, or others.
Every aspect of this app is based on the safety, comfort, and accessibility of the user while creating a safe place for understanding themselves and their ability to progress. The feedback has shown that the teens using the app appreciate the thought that went into these features, as it shows how much people on either side care about the lives and well-being of these teens, who are not safe in some cases. These additions are some of the intentionalities that set imi apart from a catch-all like many other mental health resources are. imi recognized that mental health is not a problem that needs to be solved, but that it is a progressive level of queer mental health.
There is a lot of potential for an app like this. There is also hope that LGBTQ leaders will be able to use imi in a community setting in order to better connect with the teens. This also could be used as a tool with therapists to help the teens to better understand themselves and come back to therapy ready to discuss their concerns with their therapists. imi is free to anyone and everyone.
For more information on imi, click here.