When people are facing a mental health crisis, there isn’t always time to sift through various websites and resources to find the critical support they need.
“It’s already hard enough to reach out for help when you’re having mental health problems, and the organization structure of it makes it even harder,” said Megan Schneider, a junior studying advertising, public relations and political science
To ensure all Tar Heel are getting the help they need when they need it most, Schneider co-founded Mind Above Matter, which curates all of Carolina’s mental health resources in one, easily accessible digital format. Together, Schneider and her two co-presidents, Luke Habegger and Taylor Riga, transformed the idea from a class project to a fully functioning website that launched in August to support the community.
The initial concept for Mind Above Matter was born out of a first-year seminar class that asks students to explore their vision for the world and provides them with the mindset and tools to make that vision a reality. Schneider, Habegger and Riga teamed up for the courses’ final project, which challenged them to create the blueprint for a solution to a social problem.
“For my group, we were all passionate about mental health, and we saw there was a problem where there are a ton of mental health resources, but they’re not very accessible,” Schneider said. “We all had our own experiences, either with ourselves or people close to us. As first years, we saw how hard the transition is to college.”
During the monthlong project, the team created a 25-page document that pitched a mobile phone app that would aggregate mental health resources from across campus, including University services, support groups and student organizations focused on mental health. When the class ended, instead of dropping the idea, the three students dug deeper into the issue and began working to bring the concept to life.
“We planned it all out, and we’re like “Why don’t we do it?'” Schneider said.
The first step in bringing their platform to the public was Carolina’s Makeathon. The annual two-week event provides student entrepreneurs with an opportunity to develop and pitch their ideas to expert judges.
With little to no experience in entrepreneurship and only a few months into the project, Mind Above Matter earned the best early-stage digital venture in 2019.
“That validated a lot of our work and made us realize that this is something that people would actually use, and it more than just a little project to work on,” Schneider said.
The three co-presidents spent the next year embracing Carolina’s entrepreneurship network by joining Campus Y’s CUBE 5.0 cohort and then Launch Chapel Hill. Schneider and the team conducted market research to fully understand what the campus community needed in this resource, designed the platform itself and got the necessary legal support. The mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs throughout that process, Schneider said, was critical to launching Mind Above Matter this year.
“We learned how to navigate these spaces that we weren’t really familiar with,” she said. “All of us are college students. We don’t really have experience working in this kind of higher-level work field, so it was really a lot of guidance and helping our venture become the best it could be.”
Ultimately, Mind Above Matter launched in August as a website instead of an app to provide a more accessible resource. Anybody with access to a computer can now see all of Carolina’s mental health resources quickly in one place.
Mind Above Matter intends to expand its platform to other universities.
“We want to make the process as easy as possible because it is such a difficult thing,” Schneider said. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far, but I always want to improve it even further. I’m happy that we’re making such an impact. I think that this resource is really necessary. It’s just something that needed to be done, and I’m really glad I could be part of the process of getting it done. But there is still more progress we could make.”
When Schneider arrived in Chapel Hill from Iowa City three years ago, she didn’t have an exact career in mind. She just knew that she wanted a job that helped make the world a better place. The process of bringing her nonprofit to life, she said, opened her eyes to an opportunity to do just that, but in a way she never expected.
“I have a nonprofit. I never thought I would have that at 19 years old,” she said. “I really do love being part of a startup, early-stage venture. I like the creativity that goes with it.”