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QuickBlox Chat API to provide Mental Health Support for Teens in Need

Gail M.
16 Jul 2021
QuickBlox chat SDK

Alonesy is a non-profit organization that provides virtual mentorship for teens in need. Their free mobile app connects troubled teens with mentors who offer ongoing emotional support via regular real-time chat sessions. Wanting to create an App with feature rich chat that was secure, scalable, and resource efficient, Alonesy partnered with QuickBlox, a communication backend provider who offer easy-to-use chat SDKs and API and who have strong experience supporting the privacy needs of healthcare based applications.

The Requirement

Recent statistics reveal that 1 in 5 teens in the US suffers with a diagnosable mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Yet, despite this large number less than 50% receive therapy. This may be explained in part by the social stigma surrounding mental health which means many teens are reluctant to ask for help. The high cost of healthcare in the US further prohibits people’s access to support. Without adequate health insurance many teens simply cannot afford to speak with a therapist.

Increasingly mental health care professionals are looking to online healthcare solutions to support therapy. Indeed, there are already several mental health apps available for teens in need. Meditation apps offer breathing exercises and meditations, which can be extremely helpful for individuals trying to cope with anxiety, depression, or stress management for example. The downside with such mental health apps, however, is that there is no direct contact with an individual who can offer personalized care and support. There are also several therapy apps directed specifically at young adults, but most of these employ the services of licensed therapists who require a fee. While there are other free online services available that provide teens with informal emotional support via the use of volunteers or even teens for teens, such services rely on email, phone calls, or sms messaging, forms of communication that are not secure or HIPAA compliant. There are no other mental health apps on the market that offer free support.

Easy accessible chatAlonesy set out to provide teens with easy and free access to mental health support via a chat-based App and in doing so sought to fill a noticeable gap in the market. Real-time chat on a mobile device was an obvious choice because it provides a direct and immediate form of communication. Also, as most teens have their own mobile phones, in-app chat would be easily accessible. Although Alonesy have licensed therapists on board to support staff and assist in escalated cases, mentorship of teens is provided by trained volunteers rather than licensed therapists, which means Alonesy could offer their service for free.

Familiar & Trusted

Alonesy needed to create an appealing App for their teen audience that offered support via a medium that was familiar and trusted. Messaging is the main means of communication among teens, so having a mentor available via messaging makes the contact less formal and more comfortable. In-app chat provides teens, struggling with issues like depression and anxiety, with a degree of privacy and anonymity by enabling those who don’t want to use their webcam or voice to also have access to the services. Teens could initiate chats when they needed help and safely store and access chat histories.

Privacy & security

As teens would be sharing personal and private data, the need for a secure messaging system was paramount. Both mentors and their teens needed to feel they could chat freely in the full confidence that their conversations would remain private.

Cost-efficient & scalable

As a nonprofit organization Alonesy needed to find a communication back end provider that would allow them to access the level of services required within their budgetary constraints. The impact of Covid-19 with the closure of schools and need for social distancing gave greater urgency to launch the app. To save both costs and time they wanted to use ready-to-use, customizable and fully integratable chat SDKs.

The Solution

QuickBlox Chat API

After evaluating several messaging services, Alonesy chose QuickBlox to deliver sophisticated chat functionality to their application. To make more efficient use of resources and time they opted for a third party provider who could offer a ready-to-use messaging API that was secure and scalable. QuickBlox chat messaging services offered many attractive features that Alonesy users could enjoy.

  • One-to-one private messaging – allowing teens and their mentors to communicate in a private safe space.
  • Ability for teens and mentors to save and access chat history.
  • Profanity filter to keep chat safe.
  • Push notifications to inform teens when a new message is waiting for them.
  • Deliver & read receipts and presence indicator – so anxious teens know when their mentor is online and typing, and when their message has been delivered and read.
  • Secure chat that is encrypted at both ends and in transit, which means mentors and teens can be sure about the privacy of their conversations.
  • Ability to send and share files and images.
  • Ability to scale up as and when needed.
  • The option to enter a Business Associate Agreement to confirm HIPAA compliant chat.

The Outcome

Alonesy launched their app in 2020, making it available for download on both android and iOS. Their App allows teens from all socio-economic backgrounds access free support for mental health challenges they may be facing. QuickBlox chat API and SDKs allows mentees and their mentors to communicate seamlessly in a private and secure chat room. Mentors help with issues related to social anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental disorder. Mentees are able to select their mentor based on similar interests and message them as and when they need. Since the App’s launch, Alonesy has seen a steady growth in users and their mentorship network throughout the United States.

  • Alonesy chose to integrate audio and video calling functionality into their app.
  • They plan to add additional security features, such as location tracking that can be used under emergency conditions.
  • They also intend to grow a larger mentorship team to scale and expand Alonesy’s services.

With QuickBlox, Alonesy chose a partner that has experience supporting healthcare communication solutions, and someone they could grow with: “QuickBlox allows competitive pricing, offering affordable service-related costs. This allows organizations, especially non-profits like Alonesy, to access essential services from Quickblox.”

For more information about QuickBlox chat API and its related services contact us.

For further information about mentorship services for teens in need or if you would like to donate to support their program see https://www.alonesy.org.

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