Nigeria's Anthony Azekwoh talks about their app for mental health issues

Nigeria has a mental health issue that is slowly brewing without many solutions in sight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2007, 20% of Nigerians suffer from mental disorders.

What makes the mental health problem even a bigger concern in Nigeria is that most mental health facilities, few as they are reported to be, are concentrated in urban areas whereas the majority of Nigerians live in rural areas. Added to this, is also the stigma that is sometimes attached to any form of mental disorders among Afrikans including in Nigeria.

This is where Anthony Azekwoh, Co-Founder and Lead Designer at Atio, believes they can make a dent, however small, on help Nigerians cope with mental health disorders such as depression. Atio, as Azekwoh explains, is an app that allows users to express their feelings anonymously about anything whether they are depressed or going through other forms of non-critical mental health issues.

I caught up with Azekwoh to learn a bit more about the Atio app.

iAfrikan: What motivated you to create an app around the issue of mental health?

Anthony Azekwoh: Atio was founded on the third of July 2017 and it sprung up from an idea of trying to somehow give a place for people who need to talk to someone, need to be listened to, or just need to vent out something on their mind. We were motivated by the fact that in Nigeria, something like this has never really prominently existed for the public. We wanted to create something that could help the general populace and let people know that in whatever they were going through, they weren't alone.

Why an app?

Although the Atio app may have a positive impact on people with mental illnesses, it is not the sole focus of our app. Our app, all in all, is for the general public, for people with and without mental illnesses. We decided on an app because we believe that an app will be more useful in making an impact. This will make it more accessible to people since the majority of people in today's world are involved one way or another in the digital world.

Walk us through how a typical user would use Atio?

The app works in a very simple way. Let's say you're someone who's going through something or just wants to talk to someone. You download the app and immediately, there's a chat section where you can talk to one of our confirmed listeners. Or, if you want to rant, we have a ranting section that will work like an anonymous posting wall where you can fully express yourself. Our Lead Developer and Co-Founder, Tofunmi Kupoluyi, is working in the background to make sure that all content on the app is family friendly. For more serious cases, the app is linked to the national (Nigerian) suicide prevention agency.

What are the plans going forward?

We'd like to integrate Atio more into the Nigerian health sector and maybe make this an app that could be used for counseling. We would also like to get as many listeners as we can from different parts of the continent and then, the world.

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