An app that will teach men to understand and manage their emotions

Social Issues

The “Man up!” mindset forces men to suppress their emotions, and society actively encourages it. A number of my male friends have recently confessed to suffering from this, which led me to the idea of making an app in which artificial intelligence recognizes emotions and teaches how to work with them, making men stronger, more resilient, and conscious.
Men have been taught throughout their lives that displaying emotions is a sign of weakness. It is the way almost every traditional culture is set up. As a result, we men stop paying attention to our feelings, understanding and respecting them, which can lead to breakdowns endangering ourselves and those around us.
Warning! The text below contains references to suicide, burnout, panic attacks, and depression; names have been changed.
One day James Evans, my colleague, turned to the team lead and said: “I have to leave right now, or someone will get hurt.” He called his ex-wife and asked her to come to the clinic with him. He was having a severe breakdown.
James had never been aggressive or particularly hot-tempered, but for several years he had felt an inexplicable inner discomfort. He was overcome by anxiety, had split up with his wife, and began to drink heavily. To cope with the pressure, he invented household rituals: he would always turn the key in the door lock a certain number of times and leave the mixer handle at a particular angle. But the relief from the rituals was temporary. And when panic seized James again, he felt like he was on the verge of death from a heart attack. It happened every time.
The specialists and the well-chosen medications helped James. Very soon, his work, relationships, and everyday life began to bring him joy again.
But why did James let the situation get this far before seeking help? And why do other people, especially men, try to ignore the burden of their emotions and continue to “man up”? And why don’t they just admit to themselves that they feel bad? These questions are keeping me on my toes.
James’ case is probably the most serious of all my acquaintances, but it is not the only one. Since childhood, we have been taught that “emotionality” is usually associated with women and “rationality” with men. And the entire structure of our society is built around this role model.
Social factor
Over the years, men get used to disguising their feelings to such an extent that they often cannot even understand how they are feeling right now. A lack of intense emotions and their excess often lead to reduced overall satisfaction with life, which is more dangerous than it seems at first glance. MHF researchers found that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.
A question therefore arises, “What should a man pressured by society with its “toxic masculinity” do to re-learn how to treat and manage his emotions properly?”
I want to create an app capable of measuring the instantaneous amplitude of emotional fluctuations. This app will help to understand the feelings we are experiencing and teach us how to balance our emotional state through helpful activities: journal writing, mini-concentration games, or breathing practices.
The most critical thing for me today is to get your feedback. Please share in the comments how big of an issue this is for you or your loved ones; what essential points I’ve overlooked; would you like to participate in a closed beta test or interview?
Audience insights
I like to talk to the first users and like-minded people in person — ask open-ended questions and listen to what really matters to them:
“I want to be a better father and husband.”
“I want people to feel better when they are with me. I take care of myself for others.”
“I want to regain the energy and desire to be useful in my work.”
The topic of mental equilibrium is quite personal, and you don’t always want to talk about it publicly. So as not to impede the process, I decided to do an anonymous survey for 15–20 minutes. It would help me a lot if you took it right now:
Practicing a little bit but every day
I used to make an online fitness app with my team before. We used small steps, daily goals, and regular rewards to engage the users in a cycle of habit formation — to start exercising, to love it, and not to quit. Yet, even on days when the users did not exercise, we asked them short questions about their mood, appetite, physical sensations, energy, and stress levels. Therapists recommend a similar “mood diary” to their clients to identify depression syndromes.
Even just stopping for 30 seconds and looking at yourself from the outside can be helpful — asking yourself what you are doing, thinking, and feeling right now.
I decided to make an app that would instill in users a small but very useful habit — to monitor their emotional state regularly and, if necessary, to help balance unwanted outbursts and mood swings. A neural network will be responsible for the objective recognition of emotions from video, with recognition accuracy that differs from a live expert by only 3–4%. If the system detects any signs of unbalance or other disturbing patterns, it will offer the user one of the five-minute sessions: journaling and giving a rational explanation for each of the situations that caused the outburst; 10 breathing practices to choose from; a mini-game to increase concentration.
The more “emotion measurements” the users take, the better the system will adjust to them, and the more accurate the weekly analytical summaries will become. It will be easy to see what tangible changes have taken place, what needs more attention, and what the next goal is, almost like in a game.
Emotion tracker in a manly package?
The apps in the Mental Wellbeing category generally look like something exclusively for girls. Soft colors, birds, flowers, and meditating characters with their eyes closed. These applications can be very helpful, but a man, influenced by “toxic masculinity,” would not believe a product with such visual solutions. He would think, “This one’s not made for me.”
I will do things differently. The design will be more clean, confident, and empowering, with a futuristic and slightly mysterious aesthetic. No pink, blue or purple tones. “To lower the barrier of entry, you have to give the user something that engages at first glance, something they want to be a part of.”
Finally, the big goal
I want my app to be an entry point for men who want to work on their emotional balance but don’t know where to start. Someday they will become experts at it themselves, and I want them to always have a tool at hand when things get especially tough.
Perhaps some of my users will be motivated by the data visualization and recommendations of artificial intelligence to book their first session with a psychotherapist.
And at the end of the day, if we can keep at least one person from doing something rash, irreversible and terrible, it will be a significant contribution to the world’s mental well-being.

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