My Last Words App Was Born From A Singaporean’s Suicidal Ideation
Trigger warning: contains references to suicide ideation.
The old adage: “Everyone is going through a struggle you know nothing about”, more often than not, proves true.
Though it preaches compassion, it does not do something arguably more important — give those struggling the help they need.
Singaporean Eugene Tan, 42, wants to change that. Having worked various jobs, such as a compassionate swabber, he fathoms the inherent fragility of life and just how much is left unsaid before people die.
More importantly, he also knows that he has things he wants to tell people but will not until he passes on. That is the goal of My Last Words, an app that he claims is “the most meaningful app for humanity”.
His passive suicidal ideation led to creation of My Last Words app
Eugene, 42, has struggled with depression for “at least 15 years”, to his recollection, to the point he developed passive suicidal ideation, i.e. flirting with the idea of dying but not wanting to take that step.
Soon after his son, Slevin, was born 11 years ago, Eugene felt the weight of added responsibility bear down on him, adversely affecting his mental health.
But without anyone to turn to for help, he decided — if he might leave anytime, he would write a letter to his son for him to read after he passes.
Years passed, and Eugene lost that handwritten letter while moving houses. But the idea came back to him when he saw the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic take its toll on people’s mental health everywhere.
He realised that, like him, many, especially men, have no one to talk to. Hence, he built an app, My Last Words, to not only pen his eponymous last words, but also allow others to do the same for their loved ones.
At the same time, he appears to have found a fulfilment in life that was not present before.
Though his thoughts of secondhand suicide persisted, it took coming face-to-face with recent grievers for an idea to take root.
While working as a compassionate swabber during the Covid-19 pandemic, Eugene had to swab a family on quarantine. Their father had passed away after slipping in a hotel bathtub.
I had to swab them that very evening. (It made me realise) sudden death can happen at any time.
And after watching a TikTok video asking users to imagine if they had just died, Eugene thought about his son.
App actively checks on users’ status before sending out their last words to addressees
Growing up with an “Asian” father, Eugene admitted that he never received the love and nurturing he wanted from his dad.
He was a father, but not a dad.
This gave Eugene the determination to be the dad he never had to his son.
Knowing he had things he wanted to say to him but not in person, Eugene penned a letter that would only be passed to him when he died.
Believing that others deserved the chance to do something just as meaningful before their time was up, he decided to create an app for others to write their last words, complete with encryption features.
It doubles as an alarm clock, which also serves as a way for the My Last Words team to keep track of whether the user is still alive.
If the app isn’t snoozed for 30 days, the team will contact the user, followed by their loved ones, to ascertain if they are alive. Only after receiving confirmation of the user’s demise will they forward the deceased’s last words to their addressees.
Working on the app eased his depression
Although it wasn’t Eugene’s goal, pouring his life savings into My Last Words and working on the app full-time appeared to have given a new purpose to his life.
Since Eugene started working on the app in September last year, his symptoms of depression appeared to have eased, he said. He also went as far as to say it was “cured”.
In effect, his suicidal ideation apparently disappeared, and so did his tendency to wake up in the middle of the night.
Of course, everyone’s experience with depression may vary. Still, for Eugene, depression comprised a combination of low self-esteem and a belief that one should not talk about said issue.
With My Last Words, however, he could find the words he wanted to say and open up — albeit only after he passes on.
I want to educate people — that if you have this platform to share your last words with the people you love, and you have nothing to say to other people, why do you need to care about their (other people’s) feelings?
Simply put, to Eugene, the people who don’t matter to us, shouldn’t matter at all. And that is one way he figured out the root cause of his depression.
He stopped caring about the people he had no last words for and refocused his love on those that matter.
These are the very people he has penned his last words to.
It is a lesson many may never learn in their lifetime, but Eugene claims My Last Words can help teach just that. At least, it has helped at least one person — himself.
Finding the most effective way to market the app
Now he had an idea, the next step was to market it.
Though a former company director, Eugene was not well-versed in internet marketing and initially wanted to build a website as a marketing tool.
But he realised later that to sell a product to people, he had to sell a story — something he felt a website could not do as well as a social media platform.
“We remember fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood because humans tend to remember stories more than facts,” Eugene said.
So he decided to hire a social media team of two and launch My Last Words on social media platforms. In total, Eugene has six staffers working under him.
The videos use stories that Eugene says can help improve lives, bringing attention to his app.
So far, it’s an approach that seems to work, as My Last Words has more than 50,000 followers on TikTok.
Understanding that the market for Singaporeans is also not quite as vast, Eugene used some of his budget to target neighbouring Southeast Asia countries instead.
“I tried some social experiments in Singapore, but nobody picked up on them,” Eugene explained. Plus, it’s far more costly to market within Singapore, a small market, compared to the Philippines, which has over 40 million TikTok users as of Oct 2022.
And at the end of the day, Eugene believes the app isn’t only for Singaporeans, but for humanity. While this may sound grandiose, there certainly is something universal about depression and suicide in cultures.
Significance of S$1.48/year subscription fee
Though there’s at least one competitor in the market, Eugene says what differentiates them from his app are the security features, which he has spent much time working on with his team.
While working on more features, he has also decided to include a subscription fee for using the app — at S$1.48 a year.
“My Last Words is not for everyone,” Eugene asserted, though he thinks anyone will have a use for it. “But if I make the app free, I’ll have to rely on third-party ads to monetise it, which might compromise its security.”
According to Eugene, a user is far less likely to use a free app regularly than an app they’ve made the conscious decision to subscribe to.
He sees the use of making an app free, but he wants it to be used every day, thus providing a platform where one can pen their thoughts.
My Last Words has given Eugene a new direction in life, and now he wants to pass it on. Part of this may be (naturally) profit-driven, but at the same time, he believes Asian culture has made such an app wholly necessary, in a different way from a will.
“This app is for the emotional side of things,” Eugene said. Rather than encouraging more suicidal ideation, Eugene believes it will do precisely the opposite.
Know more interesting individuals like Eugene? Get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image by MS News.
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