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Family starts app to combat youth mental health issues in Indiana

Posted at 6:58 AM, Mar 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 16:03:55-04

INDIANA — As the nation, including Indiana, sees an increase in teens struggling with mental health challenges, a new app called “Ankit’s Hope" is aiming to serve as a resource.

The app was launched this February by the Ankit Foundation Corp.

The non-profit organization was started by Pushpa Toppo and her daughter, Rachel. The family lost their son, 20-year-old Ankit, to mental health challenges in 2022.

“Once you go to the app, there is a menu button there and in menu button, you have resources, treatment center and self-screening,” said Toppo.

A Hoosier teen, 15-year-old Bharath Anand, also helped develop the app.

“The teenage years are some of the most fun years, but they also be very challenging due to changing perspectives, increasing responsibilities and increasing academic pressure,” said Anand. "Taking in account for teenagers’ perspective is really important for making an app that find easy to use."

The app connects teens across Indiana to nearby resources and allows them to track their mental health through daily self-screenings.

“Everything stays within your device and also the history of the screening which will give you the date and the score, that way a person can track their progress,” said Toppo.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in six kids ages 6-17 in the U.S. experience a mental health disorder each year.

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10-14 years old.

“One of the things we’ve seen is the increase in anxiety and depression since the onset of COVID, just the social isolation piece that youth are dealing with at the time as well as the academic gaps that took place,” said Ashlyn Douthitt, the Supervisor of Mental Health and Clinical Services for the organization Reach for Youth.

Douthitt says they’ve seen an increase in teens, especially those in marginalized communities seeking mental health services like theirs over the last few years.

On average the organization serves about 1,000 local families.

“They [teens] have their phones 99% of the time anyway. So, being able connect and relate to them in a way that makes sense for them is always the goal,” said Douthitt.

Connecting teens with resources like Reach for Youth is exactly what Ankit’s Hope is looking to do, in hopes of saving a life.

The foundation's mission became that what we can do so that another mother doesn’t have to start this kind of foundation,” said Toppo.

Ankit’s Hope is free and available on Apple and Android devices for teens across Indiana.

The foundation is hoping to expand the app’s services beyond the Hoosier State soon.