App for counselling is defunct

mPower Youth App is down for more than a year

Yangchen C Rinzin

With many youth hesitant to do face to face counselling, a mobile application, the government launched the mPower Youth app sometime in 2017. The mobile counselling app was a means for youth to share their thoughts and be counselled anonymously.

The app, designed and developed by the G2C office and later handed over to the department of youth and sports (DYS) under education ministry, was received well among many students, youth, college students, young graduates, unemployed youth, and young people at work.

Major advocacy was also conducted in schools and children were made to download the app. It also ensured that children could avail counselling through the app even during vacations.

The applicants shared issues like substance abuse, relationship problems, violence and abuse, academic difficulties, depression and suicidal thoughts, which are listed in the app.

However, the app didn’t last long.

After working at its full potential where DYS saw more than 200 youth registered and sought counselling on various issues, the app had remained defunct for more than a year now.

A 45-year old civil servant who was scrolling through the health ministry’s website when he came across the mPower and its description was disappointed when it did not work.

“I think during the current Covid-19 pandemic, such app would come handy for many seeking counselling,” he said. “I downloaded only to find the app was not working.”

Another user, a 22-year old student from Gedu College shared that she tried to avail the app since it had helped her before, but it did not work.

“This app was useful. I am not sure why it’s not working when counselling has become very important.”

An official from the DYS said that the app had proved to be useful and was gaining popularity, however, due to some technical glitch, the app has become defunct for a year.

“There were technical flaws that had overloaded the server,” an official said. “Although we tried to rectify we could not and it was also reported to G2C office.”

The office is yet to get a respond from the G2C office.

The official added that although DYS was responsible for reaching the app to youth, it was difficult to solve technical glitches without a technical expert.

“We tried to reach the focal person that had looked after the app, however, the official was transferred to another ministry,” an official said. “This is why it has remained defunct.”

The official also added that amid Covid-19 situation, the office could not follow up with the G2C office this year.

Those seeking counselling through the app had the option to write an email available on the app. An official said this features helped students seek counselling, especially for those who didn’t want to avail counselling through the phone.

The official said that when the app was functioning anyone could register through the app from anywhere and submit issues they are facing with their name, cell number and an email address.

“Once they register after describing the issue, a counsellor would call the person and provide counselling either through phone or in person, whichever they prefer.”

The main objective of the app was to share current youth-related programmes and activities, connect to professional counsellors in their location for free counselling services, and to serve as a one-stop-shop solution of all youth related information and services.

However, despite such issue, the career education and counselling division under the DYS came up with Sherig Counselling page on Facebook to address and help any students disturbed by the Covid-19.

The page was created to reach out and provide psychosocial support, as there is no toll-free number or the app, the page has all the contact numbers of counsellors. Students can call or drop a message anytime they require counselling while at home.

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