Passion Project Update

This post is an update from a previous blog post, A Gift From Networking to Share. Around the same time I started exploring data science projects, I was selected to join a cohort of Mozilla Open Leaders with my project, Mental Hues.

I started Mental Hues because I have a mental health disorder and am passionate about destigmatization. I have realized from my own experience that the biggest source of my struggles comes from stigma I have faced. I want to help those who experience similar issues, and also learn to become an advocate for mental health.

Mental Hues is a web application that allows users to connect through Hues and stories pertaining to Hues. Hues are topics related to mental health. Examples of Hues include test anxiety, paranoia, and how to feel understood. A user creates a Hue, and then writes a story pertaining to the Hue. Other users can also write stories pertaining to the Hue. Users can not comment on another user’s story to ensure a safe space. All users are anonymous to also ensure a safe space.

I envision Mental Hues being utilized similarly to a scenario I want to paint for you. Imagine that I have ADD. I want to share my experience with taking medication to help me focus on a daily task. I decide to write a Hue called ADD Meds. I write about an experience in which taking my medication one day helped me show my most productive self during an interview. After I post my story on the Hue, another user reads my story and learns more about what it might be like to have ADD. A third user shares their experience with taking a similar medication. People are able to relate and connect with this Hue.

This project is created for the mental health community and those interested in learning about mental health disorders and is an open source project. I believe all those involved should interact with Mental Hues however they feel will be most supportive for themselves and others; this includes reading, using, and building the project.  It is also created by members of the mental health community and those compassionate about diminishing stigma associated with mental health disorders.

The entire purpose of this project, from being made to being used, aims to diminish stigma associated with mental health disorders.

I enjoy working open because it has allowed me to connect with people in and outside the tech world. It is about making decisions for a project based on the problem being solved. I feel that I am creating a project that is pure in its goals for success because everyone can witness every bit of progress and help where there needs to be improvement. The open community also ensures the integrity of the solution. The problem will be solved in the best way possible for the community who needs it solved.

I am most proud of the confidence and support I have gained for my project. So far, the most growth I have experienced is personal growth. I have a close community of support, both in the mentorship program and in the open source community. I feel proud of seeing the seed of my mission begin to grow.

Working open is different than I originally imagined. I learned how to establish my project with best practices. Leaning in with a cohort that grew with me through my learning process was phenomenal. The importance of working open starts with the right guidelines and the right community. It is not about finding the right tools, at first. It isn’t about building the project at first, either. It’s about sharing an idea and creating a group that builds the community together, under my vision. It’s very empowering for me and fun for those involved too.

My biggest challenges have also come from building my confidence. If I am spreading my mission for destigmatization, I need to live my mission. That means I need to become more confident to discuss mental health disorders and share my ideas so that I can receive feedback for improvement and support. Building community starts by reaching out. My reaching has led to personal growth and strength.

Right now, I need people to contribute to my project by checking out the Issues I have created on GitHub. The repository can be found here. I need contributors. Do you have compassion for those with mental health disorders that you want to express? Having a technical background is helpful, especially during the upcoming stages of the project. For example, one of the issues that needs contributors is Issue #5, a logo for the project. Another involves filling out an anonymous survey about community views of mental health disorders.  For now, the most important criteria is an interest in the mission of the project: to diminish stigma associated with mental health disorders. Also, start talking about mental health disorders, at whatever level you are most comfortable. Ask questions, share ideas, and give comments and feedback on the repo. Even email me at erincole567@gmail.com

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