NIGERIA – October 20 2020 Youth promotes online counseling technology 23-year-old Moses Aiyenuro wants mental health support for young people to be more easily accessible through their phones. With the help of his peers on the SOS Children’s Villages International Youth Coalition, Moses is getting support to realize his ideas. The material engineering student has been thinking for a long time about a solution to solve the unaddressed mental health needs of young people. His wish is to create a tool that is easily available and easy to use to relieve young people’s suffering from stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and other mental health conditions. “I started to feel increased stress when I failed exams and didn't meet other expectations, which became a lot of pressure,” says Moses, explaining his motivation. “I read statistics and thought of all the young people who face mental health pressure in silence and thought of ways to address depression and other mental health issues through technology.” Growing up in an SOS Children’s Village in Lagos, Nigeria, Moses joined the SOS Children’s Villages International Youth Coalition in 2017 so he could share his ideas and get support to develop them. "I wanted to walk the talk" As a member of the International Youth Coalition, Moses started to exchange ideas and personal experiences with other youth advocates from around the world. He met decision makers and gave a speech on youth participation through digitalization. “The experience alone has helped shaped my thought process on discussions affecting our world. Being a member of the International Youth Coalition opened up my mind to conversations I could have never have had in Nigeria,” he explains. In his conversations with other young people, Moses realized how many of them fear to address their mental health pressures with families and friends, but would seek counseling support if full privacy and accessibility was guaranteed. “There is a lot of stigma around mental health support needs. Young people fear turning to family and friends to reveal mental health pressures. Even if they do, counseling is often expensive and not available in all areas,” says Moses. His wish is to create an app that targets young people 14 to 24 years old by connecting them directly and confidentially with a counselor or psychologist. He pursued this idea together with other young people who developed a proposal for the ‘Blueroom’ app. The color 'blue' symbolizes safety and ‘room’ indicates privacy and that counseling received via the tool is confidential. “My wish would be to create this app and make it available in as many countries as possible around the world. Every child and young person should have access to counseling,” Moses says. What needs to change Moses' idea of creating a tool aims to break barriers of accessibility and timeliness. Implementing digital solutions could increase early intervention, reach larger numbers of young people and prevent long-term negative mental health impacts for individuals and societies. Children and young people who have lost parental care often experience high levels of stress, as have other children in different situations of vulnerability. Moses has specific advice for young people: “Don’t wait until an adult recognizes you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress. Chances are your symptoms may go undetected or untreated. You must identify someone you trust to share your struggles with, but more importantly, someone who can provide a trustworthy opinion. In the absence of a trusted adult, please talk to a counselor or psychologist.” The young advocate considers protection and promotion of mental health well-being key: “We need to demystify mental health and realize that mental health issues can affect anyone. Mental health care should be part of primary care. If adults would be more empathetic, young people would more easily open up about their stress. More could be prevented,” he says. Learn more about how SOS works to empower young people.