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  • Writer's pictureGrace Sarkisian

Former College Football Player Tackles Mental Health Crisis Through App

By Grace Sarkisian | WeINSPIRE Journalist

TAMPA, Florida - It is rare to find a correlation between college football and mental health advocacy, but former Winston-Salem State University football player Shaun Andrews defied these odds. Andrews can be described as an educator, an entrepreneur, an advocate for mental health, and a start-up founder and father. Andrews is currently creating and editing an app for those suffering from mental health illnesses.

Shaun Andrews. Courtesy of Shaun Andrews.

“I am the founder of a company called Mind HAC, and basically, we are like Spotify for mental health. I created an app where an individual will register, and we ask them a few questions about what is going on with them, and then we curate playlists specific to what you are dealing with,” Andrews said. The app's contents focus specifically on stress, depression, and anxiety. These contents are layered on top of the music, then layered on top of binaural waves meant to calm the mind. The app is targeted toward those as young as children in kindergarten and those as old as young adults in college.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 6 U.S. adolescents (aged 12-17) experienced a major depressive episode in 2020, and 17% of adolescents (6-17 years old) experience a mental health disorder.

“It allows young people to start getting help on their own terms,” Andrews said.

Courtesy of Mind HAC Website. It was not until Andrews went through a rough patch himself after feeling stuck in a job he detested postgraduate school that he recognized the significance of advocating for mental health.

“The only thing that lifted my spirits was every morning I would wake up, get on YouTube, and I would look up motivational speeches, I would look up music that uplifted me, and things that would calm my mind during the day. It worked, but what I noticed was after about three months, it was really repetitive,” Andrews said.

After realizing there was nothing on the market for those with a mental illness regarding customized content serving as an aid for mental health, Andrews decided to leave corporate America and create it himself.

In the early days of app development, after gathering the realities and statistics of mental health, Andrews started researching the root of the problem and became a teacher at a Title I school to see the effects of bullying and other youth-related traumas. As Andrews began editing and progressing his app as an educator, he utilized it as a behavioral management tool in the classroom. Andrews also created content for the other teachers he worked with to understand better how the app could be used.

Shaun Andrews. Courtesy of Axios Charlotte.

“One of the things that I took notice of was, one, that it was outside of the traditional hours of therapy and, two, they were accessing these different channels and I could tell what was going on with each specific person based on their listening patterns,” Andrews said.

This led to Andrews looking at how he could develop analytical models around an individual’s listening history to create more laser-focused content to adhere to what the listeners are going through.

Andrews now has engaged in a partnership with the Neuroscience Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where they will study the impacts of the human brain while utilizing the app. The concentration of this study will be on student populations from middle school to college-aged students.

Also, Andrews has recently attained another partnership with the University of Louisville to create a research study that analyzes how the app impacts individuals in high-trauma and high-crime neighborhoods.

Shaun Andrews. Courtesy of Creative Loafing Charlotte.

Apart from the app, Andrews also associates with mental health agencies and is currently working to utilize the app within these youth trauma groups he is serving. Specifically, Andrews has a partnership with The Association of Black Psychologists, where they create content specific to minority groups, for instance, a person of color who encounters micro-aggressions, because traditional forms of psychology are not built around this mindset.

“I always tell people just live your life, seek your passion, and just build your life around that, and everything else will fall into place,” Andrews said.

You can visit his website here to learn more about Shaun and his mental health advocacy and app design.

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