AWE alumna creates mental health care app

Woman leans over laptop while man watches (Courtesy of Lynia Huang)
Staff from Here Hear, an app that uses artificial intelligence to diagnose and treat depression, visit a high school to help students better monitor their stress levels. (Courtesy of Lynia Huang)

While serving in the Taiwanese military, Lynia Huang noted that social stigma around mental health issues prevented people from getting the care they needed.

After leaving the military, Huang, who has a degree in social work, co-founded Bamboo Technology to make mental health care more accessible and acceptable to the people of Taiwan.

In 2019, the company launched Here Hear, a smartphone app that uses artificial intelligence to diagnose depression based on a user’s tone of voice and choice of words. It also monitors stress levels, sleep patterns, and heartbeat changes. The app then offers treatment options, including relaxation techniques and anti-depression classes.

For users who are reluctant to share their mental health issues, Here Hear is a way to discuss them without speaking to another person. “We are afraid that others will judge or criticize us for being weak people,” says Huang.

Portrait of a woman on a gray background (@ Mix Design Co)
AWE alumna Lynia Huang’s company uses artificial intelligence to improve access to mental health care. (@Mix Design Co)

Taiwan Newsan English-language newspaper, reports that more than 1.5 million people in Taiwan have experienced some form of depression, yet many are not seeking help.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1 billion people worldwide are living with a mental disorder and relatively few have access to treatment. Depression and anxiety cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.

Huang enrolled in the US State Department’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) to help found Here Hear. She says the program has given her the skills and confidence to support her next goal of expanding Here Hear beyond Taiwan, where it racked up 50,000 downloads in its first three months.

“[AWE] helped me write all of my roadmap and connect it to my vision by framing our mission into a realistic budget that’s ready to go,” says Huang.

AWE provides women entrepreneurs with the knowledge, networks and access they need to start and scale successful businesses. The program includes Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management online Dreambuilder course, which teaches participants to evaluate their ideas, create business plans, and lead day-to-day operations.

Since 2019, AWE has empowered an estimated 25,000 women entrepreneurs in nearly 100 countries. The program has been running in Taiwan since 2021.

Through her company, Huang encourages more women to work in engineering and supports veterans, mostly hiring former military colleagues. She hopes the app will help more people in Taiwan address their mental health issues.

“I’m really committed to improving public mental health and I think that mission is my whole life,” she says. “I just like to help people.”

This article was written by freelance writer Naomi Hampton. A version was previously published by the State Department’s Office of Education and Cultural Affairs.