Quayce Thomas knows just how isolating it can be to deal with a mental health challenge.
When he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013, things he once considered to be routine became more difficult to deal with and it was getting harder to take care of himself. Four years later, he was forced to drop out of Carleton University where he was studying to become an architect.
But after a friend noticed he was struggling and offered help, the Ottawa resident saw an opportunity to do the same for others like him in the community.
After teaching himself how to code, he developed an app called Timsle, an app aimed to help those with mental health challenges stay connected to friends and family.
“Timsle is a social accountability network that was designed to improve your physical and mental health with the support of your family and friends,” 26-year-old Thomas explained. “Our main goal is really to start identifying mental illness before it happens and then get people set up and connected with the resources and support they’ll need to manage that mental illness before it really becomes a problem.”
The first step to the app is for users to add people to their network, like family and friends who would like to take a more active role in their care. Next, users set a list of goals, like eating well or getting more physical activity, for example.
As users complete the challenges, they take a photo and upload them to the app so their network can see them completing their goals.
“If it looks like you’re having difficulty, Timsle notifies your buddies and lets them know what they can do to support you and help you get back on track,” Thomas said. “It’s really about building healthy routines.”
And now Ottawa Public Health has taken Timsle on to pilot it in two areas: mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and within the community.
The 90-day pilot projects launched last week.
“In workplace wellness, there can be some mental health concerns and it can be very difficult to know how to support your colleagues or for the workplace to know how to help you,” Thomas explained. “With Timsle, the employees of the city can go on and set up these healthy routines and start working towards them. When they have difficulty… Timsle can also let the workplace know what programs and services can be implemented to better support the employees.”
It’s a similar idea with the community aspect, Thomas says.
“Family and friends can feel like there’s nothing they can do to help,” Thomas said. “This is a resource that residents can also use when they know there’s behaviour starting to change.”
What makes this app unique, Thomas explains, is the fact that the app is designed by people who have been through mental illness themselves.
“We understand,” he said. “It’s really about that feeling of social connection and providing support. A lot of people don’t know that there is so much that they can do to help someone when they’re having difficulty with mental illness and a lot of it is just about helping them do those basic daily tasks that hold their day together.”
As the app’s popularity continues to grow, Thomas has had to add to his team to help manage the demand.
“Mental health is a really big focus and people are looking for something that they can do but it’s hard to figure it out,” he said. “Timsle is important because it’s an actual thing we can do to help people improve their mental health and it works.”
Thomas added, “I’m really proud to see that what we’ve created is helping people manage their mental health.”
For more information on Timsle, visit their website here.