Following a yearlong development of his UByou app, Florida Gulf Coast University interdisciplinary entrepreneurship student Jack Hellmer’s tool to help students assess their stress has a big believer in its potential: FGCU President Mike Martin.
In fact, the impression Hellmer left on Martin resulted in a one-year agreement with the university to use the app as a counseling screener.
“He’s supported me, he’s allowed me to present my business to him and he’s given me a shot,” Hellmer said of Martin. “He’s believed in me, and that is something that I will always be grateful for.”
Martin has gotten to know the Honors College senior during the past year and sees him as an example of the type of bright mind FGCU can produce.
“He’s a very bright and enthusiastic young man. What I found him to be was very creative and not shy about pushing his agenda,” Martin said. “That’s what it takes these days.”
Early on in his discussions with Hellmer, Martin saw the potential in UByou and the need for it at FGCU and other universities.
“You see across higher education, and of course here at FGCU, there are more and more cases of stress on students and mental-health challenges,” Martin said. “I think any tool that we can have that helps us to help them is valuable.”
High demand for counseling
Hellmer designed UByou to help students efficiently access the benefits that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides and to assist therapists by providing more insight into specific issues a student may be going through.
UByou is built to help CAPS with the increasing demand of students requesting its services. The app provides an assessment of the daily life of the student user by asking a series of questions about their day, and an algorithm tailors suggestions according to how the user responds. Questions can relate to how the user’s day went or about specific aspects that may have impacted the user’s day.
If a student decides to follow up with a CAPS meeting, the UByou data allows therapists at CAPS to dive deeper into specific issues that a student reported through the app.
“I spoke with (CAPS Director) Dr. Jon Brunner, and he said they were having trouble keeping up with the growing demand of students requesting help each semester,” Hellmer said. “That’s how I started working with him to create an efficiency tool to benefit CAPS and students.”
Brunner shared that, “In an academic year, a third of the students on campuses, in general, meet the criteria for a mental-health diagnosis. That’s a pretty significant amount, and that’s why we stay as busy and engaged as we can.”
In a December 2020 story, Hellmer told FGCU360.com that his motivation to create UByou stems from personal struggles he faced following the death of his uncle and increasing stress from his job as a store manager. He experienced symptoms of anxiety for several weeks, including physical and mental symptoms such as shortness of breath, heaviness in his chest and constant overthinking.
“When I started going through my own problems shortly after he passed, I kept thinking maybe there could’ve been something that helped him earlier,” Hellmer said. His uncle was such an inspiration that Hellmer named his business Hellmer Rath Technologies LLC in part to honor him.
Help from the FGCU family
Hellmer has been working closely with FGCU’s Runway Program, coordinated by the Daveler and Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship, to develop UByou. In spring 2020, he earned $4,000 in seed funding from the program to help convert his dream app into a reality. Last spring, Hellmer was awarded an additional $11,000 from the Runway Program for UByou.
Besides Brunner, another FGCU mentor who assisted Hellmer is Dr. Sandra Kauanui, director of the Daveler and Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship. Kauanui helped Hellmer address the need for his app by directing him to experts such as Brunner, and to take the right courses to learn about app development.
“By having the kinds of exercises he does and the reminders on the app, it’s about keeping your mind on your mental health not just when you’re in dire need of help,” Kauanui said.
She compared the framework of the app to physical exercise.
“You do it for your health. This is the same thing,” Kauanui said. “What are some of the things you’re doing for your mental health to keep you from spiraling down?”
UByou was beta-tested during the first half of 2021, with positive feedback from users. Hellmer developed additional features such as affirmations tailored around “I am” statements to make users feel empowered throughout their day. By repeating statements such as “I am strong” or “I am successful,” he believes the user can gain subconscious morale boosts before taking an exam, before an interview or while studying.
- Tyler Watkins is a senior majoring in journalism at FGCU who works with University Marketing & Communications.