She Wanted to Die. Then Something Changed

A teenager found purpose when she began developing mental health apps
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2018 4:00 PM CDT
Updated Jun 9, 2018 4:30 PM CDT

For anyone struggling with anxiety or grinding depression, Amanda Southworth has a story to tell. She had moved to a new town where she had no friends and was bullied. She was depressed and anxious. She dreamed of killing herself. She even sent an email to her future self that said, "I hope you’re not alive to get this email." In 2011 when she was in the 6th grade, she was saved by a robotics club that drew her into the world of web development and artificial intelligence. The process was therapeutic because the programming she did was constructive. "Coding is … about creating," she tells USA Today. "It's about taking different characters on a keyboard and transforming them into something bigger than you." She decided to create AnxietyHelper, an app that helps others with mental health issues.

The app hit the app store in September 2015, and her classmates were soon using it. The experience bolstered her confidence and gave her a "reason to stick around," she said in a November 2017 TEDx Talk. She followed up with an app for bullied members of the LGBTQ community. And last month, the 16-year-old started Astra Labs, a non-profit software company funded by donors and a $25,000 grant. Her apps are free and she doesn’t accept ads. She has more apps in the works, including one for users struggling with schizophrenia. The Los Angeles teen estimates that over the years she tried to kill herself at least seven times but focusing on helping others turned that around. "I can honestly say that technology has saved my life," Southworth says. To read the full story, go here. (More mental health stories.)

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