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Students use coding skills for suicide prevention

Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using their coding skills to lower the suicide rate at their school.

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Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using their coding skills to lower the suicide rate at their school. In the past decade, there have been 12 suicides among MIT graduate and undergraduate students, according to the Boston Globe

While the school has its own initiatives to support mental health, three students wanted to go a step further. In an interview with NBC News, Andy Trattner discussed the creation of Lean On Me, an anonymous hotline that Trattner and his peers Nikhil Buduma and Linda Jing developed at MIT’s annual HackMit hackathon

Lean On Me allows people in the MIT community to connect with a trained "peer supporter" through text message exchanges when they're struggling with the pressures of college course loads and relationships. Issues that most college students experience at one point or another.

"I wanted to find a way to create a safe space where students could get past the trivialities of 'How are you? What classes are you taking?' and really get to the core of each other," Trattner told NBC News

Buduma, who wrote the first iteration of the app's code, added that there are certain issues that some people may not feel comfortable discussing until you give them a sense of anonymity. 

"Your first instinct might be to ask how hard the wind is blowing, or in which direction, but that's wrong," Trattner said. "That person in the hurricane just needs someone to be with." 

Lean On Me has been active since February, but it’s already seeing a steady stream of use, according to NBC. The Lean On Me founders are now applying for nonprofit status and speaking to other colleges and organizations about implementing the texting service within their own communities. 

Lean On Me works, Buduma said, because it "lowers the activation energy to zero": Instead of worrying whether or not their problems are big enough to warrant professional help or hassling with scheduling appointments, students can text the network and instantly match with a peer supporter who has familiarity with issues central to the MIT experience.

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