Having gone through depression while in level 200 at the Bayero University Kano, Amina Rabiu Bako, a 23-year-old graduate of Mass Communication, decided to create an application, Mood Box, a mental health platform, to bring awareness of mental health illness while connecting victims with psychiatrists.
When Amina Rabiu Bako suffered from bouts of depression in 2019, some of her family members believed she was attacked by a jinn or that evil spirits were the reason for her erratic behaviour.
The illness, which made her get things mixed up, also affected her academic performance while in school. It was when she underwent an MRI scan that she was diagnosed with mental illness.
“My situation was getting worse and I was convinced to see a doctor. I went through an MRI scan and when the result came out the doctor told me that my ill health had to do with mental illness but I should not worry and he gave some advice and medication. In the end, I was perfectly fine.”
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Though with no background in the medical line, the experience ignited in her the desire to seek ways she could support individuals with mental illness due to how they are neglected and suffer alone.
For Amina, the lack of awareness on mental illness often left victims being labelled as people overtaken by evil spirits, and the majority were left to suffer alone as support hardly comes from family and friends.
“Especially in the North, they don’t believe in mental health. What they believe in is ‘al janu’ (evil spirits). They never believe that one can come into depression or other forms of mental illness. So I felt I needed to create that awareness for people to know that there is mental illness and how it should be cured.”
The opportunity finally came to sell her idea to bring awareness on mental illness and help victims with easy access to medical consultants when the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Innovation launched its Entrepreneurship Support (TIES) Scheme.
When selected, she did market research on her project and it confirmed that individuals suffering from mental illness lack access to medical personnel to help them navigate recovery from the illness.
“We did research during the programme and each of the beneficiaries had his own market research. I undertook mine through Google form where I shared it with people and their responses showed they needed a platform to connect them with doctors.”
At the end of the six-month programme, she came up with Mood Box, a mental health platform that provides access to medical consultation, peer-to-peer support and resources.
“What we are trying to do is to connect these individuals affected by mental illness with doctors that will offer consultation services to them.”
She added that the platform would also bring awareness of mental illness to enlighten the public on the need to provide compassionate support to victims.
Amina, however, said the application is currently not in use as it is a start-up though all the documents are ready with funding being a major challenge to completing the final phase of its birthing.
“People have shown great interest in it and think it is already on board. So I have to tell them that the app is not online yet as we are looking for funding and we just have a user interface.
“I have already done the graphics, logo, website and the social media handle is active. All we need to do is develop the app.”
“So, when we get the funding, we are going to seek mental health professionals’ advice and on-board them on the platform.”
Speaking on the features expected of the app when it is operational, she said, “Once you download the app, sign up and register, then you can have access to the mental health resources and community support group.”
“The group is like a platform where other users engage and you can share your experience. You can network with people who are having similar experiences. Also, you will get the opportunity for consultation with medical personnel.”
She added that all the services are free except for the consultation, “because if it is free, we won’t get any profit out of it.”
On accessibility for those without smartphones, she stated that she and her team would do community service work.
“We will go to the local communities, and talk with them. When you are suffering from mental illness, when you get someone to speak with, you can get some ease from that. We will be carrying out such activity from time to time.”
On her future plans, Amina said she is still looking for funding but feels self-fulfilled for bringing her idea to fruition as some start-ups have come up with a lot of ideas but that didn’t make it to reality.