SIGMA is an open source mental health community that provides support to individuals struggling with anxiety and depression. Student Evie Cheung designed this project based on cognitive behavioral therapy. She mentioned, “According to research, over 43 million Americans struggle with mental illness in a given year. One in five Americans will experience a mental health condition at some point in their life. However, less than half of those individuals will ever seek treatment. There are many reasons for this, but it usually comes down to one of two obstacles: lack of access to care and stigma.” She wants Sigma to be a new movement for mental health that addresses both of the above issues.

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The current iteration consists of an app with three core functionalities—a digital thought diary, knowledge base, and in-app support network with direct messaging. In addition to the digital portion, Sigma is also a brand with physical products that people with mental illness can use to communicate to the public. Branded with geometric shapes and bold colors, it transforms mental illness from something that a person hides into something that they can wear with pride.

The name Sigma is derived from the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, which means “synchronized, together.” Additionally, in statistics, sigma stands for “standard deviation,” a measure used to quantify the amount of variation or dispersion within a data set or population; in other words—diversity. The naming of the brand is also a play on the word “stigma,” graphically presented by the “T” being crossed out to transform the word into “Sigma.”

Project Process

When asked about her inspiration for the project, Evie mentioned, “it was born out of my personal struggle with depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed when I was 13 years old and have been living with it ever since. Personal experiences were used as an asset, but to avoid bias, many measures were taken for additional research and perspectives.”

She began the research process by searching various online forums like Quora, WebMD, and other medical advice websites for individuals’ personal experiences with depression and anxiety. She documented their challenges and the tools, techniques, and methods that were most effective in addressing their illnesses. After that, Evie completed a comprehensive competitive analysis of existing mobile apps. Additional secondary research included delving into the world of various therapy techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and exposure therapy.

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Once designed mockups and general user flow for the mobile app were created, the app was shared with two psychotherapists that specialize in therapy for depression and anxiety and two human beings that struggle with the illnesses. The app went through two rounds of feedback and many adjustments were made. Some of these changes included color, copy, and simplification of the app.

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In response to how she would like to move forward with the project, Evie mentioned, “A significant amount of additional research needs to be conducted in cooperation with psychological experts. It would be expected that the app needs to go through several more iterations before it is viable for user testing. From there, the app needs to be tested by several individuals who struggle with anxiety and depression. Ideally, multiple rounds of randomized control trials would take place in order to gain the most amount of data. Additionally, it would be beneficial gain feedback on the graphic design and social media campaign of this as well.”