One freshman is taking a new approach to combating mental illness and spreading positivity — and using social media to get the job done. Satvik Sethi has his sights set on making the world a happier place for everyone.
With prior entrepreneurial experience — including five internships at different corporations and working as chief operating officer for a startup company — and his desire to help, Sethi, a freshman majoring in business administration, is looking to develop an app called Runaway that aims to make the world a happier place. He chose the name Runaway for the app because he wants to make it a safe place that people can run away to.
The idea for Runaway came from an experience Sethi had on Instagram.
“Three years ago, I was on Instagram late at night searching for pictures of art and poetry, and that’s when I came across an image of someone self-harming,” Sethi said. “I was really taken aback by this photo so my first response was to reach out to this person by leaving a comment on the photo. I wanted to let them know that I was there for them if they need someone to talk to.”
This was the first of many people he’s reached out to on social media, letting them know that he’s there to talk and listen to them.
“I realized that a small gesture can have a large impact on an individual,” he said.
Since then, he’s made it his goal to spread positivity and to break down the stigma around mental illnesses. He’s had about 150 such cases in which he interacted with people struggling with mental illness through social media. Sethi, an international student from India, continues to find these people by looking through hashtags. These people are from all around the world in places like Australia, India, Sweden, South America and the United States.
About a year ago, Sethi realized that he wanted to reach out to people on a bigger scale, but it was too time-consuming to do alone. That’s when he came up with the Runaway app.
Sethi hasn’t yet started developing the app itself, as he wants to first work on increasing awareness on mental health, but the app’s sketches and plans are ready to be executed. The app is set to be released in 2018.
Until the app’s release, Sethi’s goal is to reach out to the many organizations around campus to organize events that will promote mental health positivity and break down the stigma around mental illness. For instance, there is an open mic night scheduled for this fall, focused on mental health awareness with the Poetry Society and Ellipsis.
Before working on Runaway, Sethi admits that he had no idea that the University’s counseling services existed. Sethi wants to make sure that students and employees are aware of the various counseling services and resources that are available.
“I want to get the word out about Runaway but also get to teach people how to properly help peers with different types of mental illnesses,” Sethi said. “I also want to emphasize that it’s not a bad thing to be mentally ill, as it can happen to anyone.”
Specifically on the Runaway website, there will be a “positivity zone” that will have things to help people feel happy — things like positive art, quotes, happy music, self-care tips and video seminars on how to help and feel better.
Sethi says he hopes Runaway will offer accessible and immediate help and support from trained volunteers.
“Anyone is welcome to join team Runaway and we don’t call ourselves professionals,” he said. “We’re simply being a friend.”
Mary Golden, a junior double-majoring in English and music, hopes the app will help prevent self-harm.
“For people with mental health issues like me, Runaway is going to save lives in a revolutionary way,” Golden said. “I wish I had this when I was going through the worst years of my life.”
To find more information about the app and get involved, there is an Instagram account (@runaway.app), a Facebook page (@runawayapp) and a website (www.runawayapp.com).