Recovery from trauma is not a straight path.

Mel Smith
Mel Smith
Apr 1 · 3 min read

I’m a product designer interested in helping individuals lead healthier lives. I participated in HackMentalHealth’s mental health hackathon to explore the ways in which technology can be used to improve mental health. I also wanted to learn what hackathons are all about (first-timer)!


In this post, I’ll discuss:

  • Hack Mental Health (HMH), an organization bringing together leaders in mental health and technology
  • Trove, a recovery community for survivors of sexual assault
  • Our team’s hackathon process


This past weekend, HackMentalHealth hosted Hack Mental Health x UCSF 2019. There were 500+ participants and 61 hackathon teams.

Our hackathon team consisted of 6 lovely humans.

Team Trove at Hack Mental Health 2019


For this hackathon, we decided to hone in on the trauma recovery process. In many trauma scenarios, there are clear first steps to take immediately following the event. However, months or years later, there is little in the way of helping people understand how to fully integrate the experience into their life.

Recovery from trauma is not a straight path. Challenges include:

  • Treatment is not one-size-fits-all. For example, pre-trauma life experiences can affect how people respond to treatment.
  • There are hundreds of treatment types, from the medically accepted to the spiritual. Take a look at The Body Keeps the Score, a book on the history of post-traumatic stress disorder, to get a sense of this.
  • It can be difficult to discover the techniques that are available.

How might we make recovering from trauma easier?

Meet Trove: An emotional health platform for managing trauma recovery.

Trove empowers trauma survivors by helping them discover useful techniques, map their process, and heal through sharing. The idea behind Trove comes from an inspiring woman and our team lead, Amelia. We were fortunate to help her bring one small part of her vision to life.

A few select screens from the Trove app

When designing for those in a sensitive headspace, we had to consider the following:

  • How might we create a visual language that walks the line of inspiring and bright while holding space for the gravity of the traumatic event?
  • How can we build trust around the idea that information is public to the community yet secure?
  • How might we build feelings of empowerment around their recovery process?


We had a strong team and a well-thought-out idea. We broke off into pairs of specialists working together. Our process went as follows:

Trove’s Hackathon Process

Wrapping Up

We were lucky to come in third place. We had a blast building the first iteration of Trove and will continue to build on the project. You can follow the project on Twitter.

HackMentalHealth was an excellent way to get exposed to opportunities in mental health. Some of the projects that inspired me were about supporting sufferers of less common disorders using chatbots (see Trichy), addressing widespread compulsive disorders in novel ways (see Amazoff), finding better ways to track sleep, posture, and more. Outside of the hackathon, I learned about projects built out of pure empathy like Karuna Community and Quirk.

I left the weekend feeling inspired by all the people helping us understand mental wellness. I hope to contribute to this community going forward.

Want to continue the conversation? Shoot me a message at :)


The intersection of technology and mental health. Want to write a story? Submit at

Thanks to Sina Habibian

Mel Smith

Written by

Mel Smith

Product Designer @ Mel Smith Consulting


The intersection of technology and mental health. Want to write a story? Submit at

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