LIFESTYLE | Interview with Mental Snapp founder, Hannah Chamberlain

Last month on the blog, I proclaimed my love for new mental health app, Mental Snapp. The app – that works a little like a therapist in your pocket – is an excellent (and modern!) way to keep a check on your mental health when convenience or budget may not allow you to visit an actual thearpest.

The whole idea of the app fascinated me, so of course I was ecstatic to have the chance to interview the founder, Hannah Chamberlain. I chatted to Hannah about how the app was formed, what effect the app has had on HER mental health and any future plans for Mental Snapp.

Formidable Joy | UK Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | Hello March | Interview with Mental Snapp founder, Hannah Chamberlain | Mental Snapp | Mental Health

HOW WOULD YOU PERSONALLY DESCRIBE MENTAL SNAPP AND THE BENEFITS OF THE APP?
Mental Snapp is essentially a diary, just in video form. What I’ve found, working in film in mental health for twenty years, is that people find video a very accessible form and it’s a great validator. The camera is one of our earliest relationships, when we’re born, it’s mummy, daddy, camera. So telling your story to a lens is a natural progression from writing it on paper. The video element is one of the key benefits of the app. We say that we want to help people with their confidence and to be their own best friend. Users say that it’s true – using Mental Snapp boosts them and helps them feel kinder to themselves. What’s more, an independent study by London Southbank University showed that Mental Snapp can positively affect confidence and self compassion in just two weeks. So we are hitting the targets we have set ourselves in terms of the benefits we hope to see. It’s about getting to know yourself and treating yourself more kindly.

CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE MORE ABOUT HOW YOU CAME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE APP?
I have worked in film and mental health all my career, and I took a break to have my son. When I came back to work, I felt so much more confident about my career, and I realised that it was because I’d got over my own self stigma, which had been holding me back personally and professionally. I decided I wanted to design a course to be taught at recovery colleges which could help other people to do the same, and of course as a filmmaker, video diaries and filmed exercises would be a massive part of it. Once I’d thought of the app it was obvious it had so many other applications, and in fact it drew together all the thoughts I’d had about the therapeutic benefits of film and telling your story in your own words. I’ve been taking Xanax (Alprazolam) because I suffered 6 months, and now found that medicine really helped me, and if I take it in the morning, not in the evening, how much time it can take to show the effect and what dosage is it better to use? The problem in mental health is that it is based on a deficit model, conventional therapy is based on what you can’t do, not what you can. We’re seeking to address that by taking back the most fundamental means of recovery – the ability to tell and record your own story, in your own words, as it makes sense to you.

WHAT TYPE OF PROCESS WENT INTO DEVELOPING THE APP?
We were very lucky in the process we went through to get Mental Snapp onto the App Store. I think it goes to show it was an idea whose time had come. We didn’t find it hard to raise interest and we got a couple of grants from UnLtd and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which gave us funding to do a year of market research and co design with users, and to get the beta version on the App Store. From there, we got investment from Bethnal Green Ventures and have had a positive evaluation of the effects of using Mental Snapp by London Southbank University. We did a bunch more user testing in the autumn and got some ideas for the new version. and also won the Stelios Foundation Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in November last year. All of this gave us the confidence – and the cash – to put the full version live on the App Store this January.

FOR THOSE OF US WHO MAY BE A LITTLE CAMERA SHY – HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU FIRST BEGAN TO RECORD YOUR EXPERIENCES ON FILM?
Ironically when I made my first recordings myself, just testing it out on the phone, before the app went live, they were all about confidence. I was part of an action learning group and the group had asked me ‘Where has your new found confidence come from?’. I recorded a test Mental Snapp on this which was my first recording. I’ve used this kind of idea in the on boarding process and also in the way that we introduce the concept of recording to people. It is a bit of a leap for some people, sure, and it’s not going to be for everyone. That said, everyone has a grain of confidence, and the essence of Mental Snapp is that it’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can. If you tell yourself – or if you tell people – they can do it, they have strength inside themselves and it’s amazing how true that becomes. I interviewed a user on Skype last summer who said that she hadn’t been able to use Skype at all before using Mental Snapp and now she was communicating with her friends online. So the question I was asking myself ‘Where does this new found confidence come from?’ can apply to people at all stages of their Mental Snapp journey and we always want to be building people up and encouraging them to go further on their journeys.

HOW SOON AFTER FILMING – AND WATCHING – YOUR OWN VIDEOS DID YOU NOTICE AN EFFECT ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH – IF ANY? 
I started to notice an effect almost straight away in terms of the relief that I felt that I was recording and making a difference. I have always found recording and telling my story important. Knowing that I have documented makes a big difference to me. However, the further benefits of feeling kinder to myself took a bit more time to develop – I would say about two weeks – but they have continued both when I have continued to use the app and even when I have taken breaks and then come back to it later. I would say that I am a very different person now to the one who made that first recording about confidence way back two years ago.

FINALLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO DEVELOP THE APP FURTHER IN FUTURE?
I’ve got so many plans! There are things that I want to implement myself and thoughts that our users have contributed. We have been working with an agency, General Assembly, who have interviewed users and developed a bunch of new and exciting features to help people gain better insight from the videos they make. I’d like to introduce a check in that can be done monthly or as required. There are always improvements to be made, but the most important thing is that they aren’t just coming out of thin air, we want to always be listening to and accountable to our users and how they want to use the app so that it fits into their day-to-day life and makes a big difference in helping them to actively manage their mental health.

It’s so interesting hearing about how the app was formed and about how Hannah came up for the idea for something so useful – and what better day to celebrate Hannah’s talent then on International Women’s Day?

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