CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Chanda Spate has spent the last three years developing a mobile app to help improve the mental health of teens after her own son suffered from bullying at his high school.
"My son attempted suicide because of bullying, and we were having some trouble with the response that the school was giving," Spate told WCNC Charlotte.
Spate said she named the app the "DDAAT App" after an acronym for "Digi-Dad Advice Any Time" because her son and others have a hard time due to the absence of father figures in their lives.
She said back in 2019 her son, who is physically disabled, was rushed from Hopewell High School in an ambulance after several students jumped him.
"Every time the bullying incidents happened, he was suspended along with the bullies because they have a zero-tolerance," Spate explained. "He has cerebral palsy, he was once in a wheelchair, and he has metal pins in his head, he didn't have the ability to flee a fight."
Spate said the constant bullying prompted her son to attempt to die by suicide. That's when she started working on the DDAAT app.
The app is now active and available for a free download in the Apple and Google App stores. The chatline is currently unmanned, but a number of Spate's partners and focus groups are giving her feedback on the variety of on-demand curricula and videos featuring mental health professionals and counselors speaking about issues that would help a teen with nowhere else to turn.
"We can hopefully make sure that they make better decisions -- so that you're not making a decision that will end your life over something that might be situational and seasonal in your life," Spate said.
Spate said the DDAAT App's release -- coming as Mental Health Awareness Month kicks off and the federal government prepares to unveil its new national suicide prevention 988 hotline in July -- is proof Charlotte is ahead of a problematic curve.
"This is Charlotte," Spate said. "We're known for being innovative. We're the first in flight. We are going to be the absolute first community with a behavior intervention strategy... and I think we're going to make an impact."