App to promote mental wellness from Bond University takes second place at Global Final

Team from Bond University In 2021, Bond University student Jackson Miller found himself – and others he knew – struggling with mental health issues and unsure where to turn.

He credits a chance phone call he received from his father when he felt at his worst as the catalyst for him to speak more openly about his challenges.

“According to external appearances it looked like I was doing well, but internally I was struggling, and I didn’t feel comfortable asking for help when I needed it,” said Miller, a student in the Master of Science by Research Program at Bond, who was then headed on a path toward postgraduate medical school.

“It was when I was reflecting on my experience and the challenge I had in supporting my friends and family with their mental health, that vybu (pronounced vibe you) was born.”

Vybu is a software as a service (SaaS) platform designed to promote mental health in young people. The app’s goal is to reduce perceived loneliness through enhanced social connection, reduce stigma around mental health by facilitating conversation and encourage people to seek help and make use of mental health resources.

Users can listen to messages that have been pre-recorded by loved ones when they feel they need support and the platform also provides access to guiding scripts and prompts that have been written by psychologists for those providing help to others when they aren’t sure what to say.

Miller, along with fellow Bond students Megan van der Velde, Holly Slattery and Ellie Mackey, recently pitched vybu at the 2022 World’s Challenge Challenge Global Final, coming in second place after competing against 15 other teams from universities from around the world. 

“Most, if not all, of us have experienced a situation where we needed support or wanted to give support but did not know how to go about it,” said van der Velde, who is currently completing her master’s degree in financial management at Bond. “That is why I absolutely love vybu. For me, there is no one better to listen to than for the people who are special to me, encouraging me and uplifting me when I need it the most.”

Bachelor of Psychological Science student Mackey said she was excited to work with the team on the project, as well as for the opportunity to take part in the Global Final.

“Being in psychology, I was naturally intrigued by the idea. We had also just spent a lot of time in lockdown and I had adopted sending voice messages to stay connected during that time,” she said. “It’s been great to work alongside Jackson and meet people from around the world. It was the chance to blend helping a friend, doing a project and connecting with other like-minded people – it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

The World’s Challenge Challenge asks students to form interdisciplinary teams and come up with a solution to a global issue based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Participating universities host their own campus competitions, with the winning teams advancing to the Global Final – a four-day summit hosted by Western featuring speakers, networking and mentoring opportunities and culminating in the final pitch competition.

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I joined the team or what the Challenge was all about,” said Slattery, currently completing her Master’s Degree in Communications at Bond. “It’s a good starting point for anyone – whether you’re just starting or if you know you have a feasible idea. As a team you come together from different backgrounds, different disciplines and bounce ideas around to come up with something great.”

With this team competition behind them, Miller plans to continue working on vybu and is preparing for the release of a beta test in the near future. 

“Building a startup is often described as a lonely journey – but for many reasons, I’ve been actively focused on it not being that way. Working together wherever possible, including for the Challenge, has been integral to vybu’s development. We’re not sure yet how we’ll all be involved going forward, but the vision is absolutely continuing on,” he said.

“My advice for others starting out would be to remember that if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. While the idea of vybu was developed prior to the Challenge, the competition provided a valuable opportunity to refine and innovate, which has helped shape what it has become and where it is going.”